Less than four in ten Americans think their retirement savings are on track, and the number who have successfully prepared might land lower still. Americans who see themselves as middle class have seen a significant slip in overall financial security.
As older generations start to approach retirement age, the opportunity to save dwindles. While millennials and younger members of Generation X have plenty of time to take the reins of their financial situations, baby boomers and older members of Generation X will start grappling with retirement insecurity soon.
Whether you’re a baby boomer looking for a path to imminent retirement or a millennial trying to plan for the future, you should start thinking about a comfortable middle class retirement sooner than later. This article will walk you through retirement security, insecurity, and how to make it all add up.
Financial Security in Retirement
We’ll start with the basics. How much should you expect to have for retirement?
A comfortable retired lifestyle needs about 80 percent of what you make year to year. If you make $50,000 per year, a comfortable and familiar lifestyle in retirement takes $40,000 per year. Sounds simple, right?
How long do you expect to spend in retirement, though? A typical retirement plan assumes you intend to spend roughly 30 years in retirement and multiplies your intended yearly spending by 25 to reach an initial nest egg. That $40,000 per year takes roughly $1,000,000 in initial resources to maintain, assuming modest returns on investments.
In turn, this form of budgeting only works if you stick to it during retirement. If you’re 65 and freshly retired, with a million-dollar nest egg, you might want to spend $20,000 on a trip to another country. This chips away at the principal, which in turn means losing out on money you might want to use later.
Other sources of income add complications to this calculation, too. You need less of a nest egg if you have a large pension or a Social Security check coming in. Even then, though, most middle class retirement plans need a significant nest egg.
Is 80 Percent Enough? Financial Reserves for Special Goals
While multiplying your annual spending by 25 arrives at serviceable income levels, every retirement comes with unique challenges. Do you want to see a different country every year when you’re retired? Are you thinking of checking items off your bucket list?
Your family situation comes into play as well. Do you have a much younger or older spouse who will be retiring at a different age? Perhaps a family member has chronic illnesses that will need additional care.
Even more mundane concerns can come into play. If you go from working 50 hours a week to none, how much time are you spending at bookstores and cafes? Adding ten dollars’ worth of coffee and donuts to every day of the year adds thousands to your annual spending before you know it.
You’ll need to make a budget for these things as well. Many of them can have secondary costs you won’t think about at the time as well. Many of the things people put off until retirement bring their own costs.
No two retirement experiences end up the same, because no two people end up the same. If you have specific needs beyond simple retirement, reach out to a financial planner or other professional and start making plans for them. The more information you have on your needs, the more help you can receive.
Health-Related Retirement Insecurity
Retirees often deal with additional health expenses they lacked during their working years. Even a plan that looks good on paper can fall apart once healthcare comes into play.
Some costs, like health-sustaining medication, can figure into a plan easily, as they already figure into your daily budget. Others come from emergencies and may not come to mind while thinking about retirement.
Even if you think you’ve saved enough for retirement, try asking yourself whether your retirement plan would survive the $15,000 cost of a joint replacement five years in. Your health will only become more important as you age, and those expenses will add up.
Getting Ahead of It
If you still have a big window between yourself and retirement, ask yourself: am I getting the most out of the tools I have? Many Americans have options for retirement planning that they don’t bother to use.
Employer retirement plans, for instance, can speed up savings. Many employers match their employees’ retirement contributions. Depending on the type of retirement plan you have, you can also use an employer retirement program to reduce later tax liability.
You should try to keep estate planning and life insurance in mind during the process as well. While most people think of their retirement plan exclusively in terms of their personal lifestyle, what happens after you die should figure into those plans as well. Estate activities come with their own expenses, and you don’t want your family to get ambushed by unplanned expenses.
Planning and Saving Starts Today
Financial security can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re already mid-career and haven’t saved much. The best time to make a comprehensive retirement plan starts with your first job. The second best time, however, starts today.
The dwindling share of wealth held by middle-class households has made a middle class retirement plan more difficult. The ideal plan requires a mix of investment strategies and a clear sense of your needs.
Not sure where to begin with your retirement savings? Worried that you haven’t saved enough? Get in touch with one of our experts today and start building your portfolio.