Do you have a retirement savings goal? Do you know how much you need to save?
Chances are good you don’t. Most Americans have no idea how much they need to save to live comfortably in retirement.
People of any age can make a plan, no matter your age. This advice will help you determine your retirement savings goal — and get there. Starting now.
Decide how you want to live in retirement.
Not everyone has the same standard of living, of course, and that doesn’t change in retirement.
Someone who wants to live in an upscale gated community and drive a fancy car into their 80s will obviously have to save more than someone who is comfortable living in a condo and driving an old Camry as they age.
Take a hard look at what you value and imagine how you will want to live after you retire. It doesn’t have to be a detailed plan, but a general lifestyle approximation will help you set your retirement savings goal.
Set milestones by decade.
According to the Fidelity Retirement Calculator, you should have at least your annual salary saved by age 30, and by 40 you should have three times your annual salary saved. By 50, six times your salary.
Use these tools or others like them to set your savings goals based on your current income, age and retirement lifestyle. This is an excellent resource.
Set up a retirement savings account.
If you don’t already have one, set up an IRA or 401(k). Here are some great guidelines and tips on how to decide which type of retirement account is right for you. This is an important decision and not one to take lightly.
Once you’ve set up your account, start contributing immediately. A retirement savings account is essentially a way to get free money, so max out your contributions if you can to reach your goal sooner.
Set up an emergency account.
No one likes to think about the worst things that could happen, but it’s necessary when you’re doing your retirement savings plan.
No matter how old — or young — you are, you should have an emergency fund set up, just in case medical issues, car problems, unexpected home repairs due to natural disaster or unemployment strikes.
You might never touch the money in that account, but if you do need it (for yourself or a family member), you’ll be glad it’s there. Read this article for specific advice about the necessity of an emergency fund and how to set one up.
If you can swing it, set aside half a year’s living expenses in your emergency account, but you can start smaller. Put $500 aside and add to it as you go. No amount is too small to contribute to the emergency fund.
Keep this account separate from your checking account (so you’re not tempted to dip into it), but make sure it’s easily accessible in case you need the money on short notice.
The bottom line
Saving for retirement may seem daunting, or retirement might seem too far into the future to make planning a priority. But reaching your retirement savings goal is both doable and vital. Start now!