How Much Should I Be Saving For Retirement?

After I published my post on our on-going retirement crisis yesterday, I got a few emails asking me the same question: I don’t want to be working when I’m 77 years old. How much should I be saving for retirement?

You’ll hear a lot of answers to this question: $1 million is something you’ll hear a lot, and we’re increasingly told that may not be enough. You’ll also hear: “Save as much as you can” and as early as you can (which means if you haven’t already started saving, start saving now). Ten percent of your income is another piece advice that’s widely applicable.

So those answers are broad and sort of vague — as they should be because they’re addressing a broad readership. My answer to this question is: I can’t tell you how much you should be saving for retirement. It’s up to you to figure out the kind of life you want to live, and how much you’re going to need to live that life. Those who dream of traveling the world and dining at Michelin star restaurants are going to have to save a lot more money than those who want to retire to a country house and eat vegetables grown from their own garden. Not everyone needs a $1 million nest egg, so don’t freak out if you’re not going to hit that target. You can live on less. Just don’t pretend that you’ll be buying tickets to Europe every weekend if you’re not saving that kind of money.

Not everyone has to retire at 65, either. That’s the age you read the most about, but you can retire whenever you want once you have enough money to support yourself. And if you like your job and want to work a few more years, there’s no reason why you must quit at 65. There’s no reason I need to quit writing for money at 65!

According to the Social Security Administration, your full retirement age is 66, but you can delay your retirement and collect more later:

If you retire at 67, you’ll get 108% of the monthly benefit because you delayed getting benefits for 12 months. At 70, you’ll get 132% of the monthly benefit because you delayed getting benefits for 48 months. When you reach age 70, your monthly benefit stops increasing even if you continue to delay taking benefits.

There are a bunch of retirement calculators available to help you figure out what you should be saving (i.e. Vanguard has a few, and here’s one to figure out what your Social Security benefit might look like).

In the Bloomberg story featured yesterday, Tom Palome could have scraped by on the $21,600 a year he was receiving from Social Security and a small pension. But he wanted to travel, go to the theater, and have a golf membership. To pay for those things, he’s working at 77 years old to supplement his income, but he’s also able to do the things he wants to do.

Like Tom, you need to figure out what you want to be doing in your golden years, and that will help put you in the right direction to help you figure out what you need to be saving.

Me? I won’t be retiring at 65. I’ll be writing until I’m unable to write anymore. But I’ll be contributing to my Roth IRA every year too — just in case.

Photo: Thomas Galvez

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