It’s natural to be curious about other people’s finances, and how you compare at each stage of life. However, this can be a tricky area to bring up—people get awkward about having more or less money than their friends, and asking blunt questions about money is a good way to create tension and discomfort. Since it’s impolite to ask your best friend what her net worth is, we suggest using wealth studies to learn how you compare with your peers in the money department.
We did some research, and it turns out most people are building wealth with 401(k) and other employer-sponsored retirement accounts. Even if you don’t have access to a 401(k), you can open an individual retirement account or IRA. According to an article by The Motley Fool, the average 401(k) in 2016 was $96,495. To get a more accurate measure of how your retirement savings compares to your peers, it’s important to factor in the age of the retirement saver. Fidelity came up with suggested savings goals based on a person’s age. The report by Fidelity assumes workers want to replace at least 85 percent of their current income when they are no longer working. You may find it fun or frustrating to see how you are doing based on their recommendations, but the good news is you can learn about building wealth, and why it’s important to contribute to 401(k) early or whenever you can (it’s never too late). Here are some general guidelines to give you an idea of what you should be saving during different stages of life.
The earlier you start to save for retirement the better, but many people focus on paying off student loan debt in their 20s. Fortunately, Fidelity only expects a person to have half of his or her salary saved by the time he or she reaches the age 30. If you earn $30,000 a year at age 30, you should have at least $15,000 saved in your 401(k) or other retirement account.
By the time you hit 35, you should have at least one year’s salary saved for retirement. If you are making $45,000 by age 35, you should have that amount put aside in a retirement account. Simple ways to achieve that goal are to consistently save as you work, or to put aside large windfalls, such as tax returns, each year.
When you reach age 40, your retirement balance should clock in at twice your salary. For someone making $50,000, their retirement account goal is $100,000 or more. Because there are contribution limits each year, it’s important to spread out your contributions year-to-year, as opposed to thinking you can make one huge lump contribution when you hit the lottery.
45 and Beyond
At the age of 45, the goal is to save three times your salary. By age 50, you need four times your salary. When you hit 55, try to have five times your annual salary saved up. People who are 60 need six times their salary, while a retiree at 67 should have eight times their ending salary saved up for retirement.
When estimating how much money you will need, experts make certain assumptions such as living to age 92, working until you get full benefits, and having an annual average return of about 5.5%. If you aren’t sure how to get started saving for retirement, simply choose a life cycle fund, or the target date fund in your 401(k) at work. If your company doesn’t offer a 401(k), the next best alternative is to open a Roth IRA through a discount brokerage firm. Many online trading sites will let you open a Roth IRA with very little money. You can buy commission-free exchange-traded funds (ETFS), or mutual funds geared for retirement savers.