America’s Retirement Savings Gap
America has a retirement savings gap to match our income gap. People with higher incomes are more likely to have retirement savings and their average retirement savings are higher, too. Meanwhile people with the lowest incomes have no savings and plenty of debt. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but it’s one of the most notable features of the retirement landscape.
It may be counter-intuitive but those near the top can still have big retirement savings gaps. Think of a high-earning family with an expensive mortgage and kids in private school. They may not save much for retirement, and their high standard of living means there would be a big gap between the income they’re used to and the retirement income they’ve saved.
Think lower-income folks can simply work longer and retire later to make up for their lack of savings? Not so fast. Americans with lower incomes may be the ones least able to work into their late 60s and 70s, either because their work is too physically demanding or their employers won’t want to keep them on. It’s a good idea even for white-collar workers not to count on working later as a substitute for retirement planning.
Where Your Retirement Savings Stand
Experts generally think of retirement savings as an end goal with a series of mileposts along the way. Some say that you should have saved the equivalent of one year’s salary by the time you hit 30. Saving more certainly won’t hurt, though.
By the time you retire, it can be a good idea to have between nine and 11 times your salary in retirement savings. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, and experts disagree about how much to save by 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65 and beyond.
Conventional wisdom has been that saving between 10 and 15% of your salary each year will get you on your way to a comfortable retirement so long as you choose a low-fee investment vehicle that consistently earns inflation-beating returns. Talking to an expert can help you set and execute a retirement plan.
So why don’t Americans’ average retirement savings match up to what experts say we should have? There are two very good reasons. One is that our brains have a hard time giving up present reward for future reward, especially when that future is decades away. Saving is tough. We can’t picture ourselves choosing between food and prescription drugs in our old age. However, we can visualize what we’d do with our paychecks in the here and now.
The other reason for the retirement savings shortfall is if you don’t earn enough to save for retirement. Juggling necessary expenses, student loan payments, childcare and all the rest can leave us with nothing left for an IRA.
When it comes to average retirement savings statistics in America, the picture is fairly grim. That means that keeping up with the Joneses in this respect just isn’t enough. Even above-average savings and a healthy Social Security benefit might not be enough to let you maintain your lifestyle in retirement.
Many Americans say they expect to work longer and retire later to get around the retirement savings gap. That’s one strategy but it isn’t a sure thing that you’ll be able to keep working into your 70s. The safer bet is to save as much as you can, as early as you can – and throughout your career.
Tips to Help You Save for Retirement
A financial advisor can help you build a long-term strategy for reaching retirement. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Social Security benefits alone won’t be able to support your current lifestyle. However, they can certainly help with your living expenses in retirement. Try our Social Security calculator to see how much of a benefit you can expect.
While you’re at it, check out our retirement calculator to see if your savings are on pace; and try our cost of living calculator to get a better idea of your income needs.