How Much Money Do You Need to Retire?

Posted by Todd Smith

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Retirement PlanHave you ever calculated the amount of money you will need to have saved in order to enjoy the flow of income necessary to maintain your current lifestyle in retirement?

If your answer is no, the sooner you determine how much you need to have saved, the sooner you can start the critical planning necessary to ensure a comfortable retirement.

I have often heard millionaires referred to as “the rich people,” but did you know if you had one million dollars saved paying you an annualized return of 5 percent a year, you would only be earning $50,000, before paying taxes?

You must also consider the effects of inflation. As an example, let’s say you are 42 years old today and plan to retire when you are 65. Based on 3 percent annual inflation, you will need twice the cash flow at age 65 as you do today to maintain your current lifestyle.

How much do you need to save annually?

Using the medium household income in the U.S. of approximately $50,000, here are some at-a-glance numbers as to the amount of money you will need to save each year to maintain your current cash flow of $50,000 annually when you reach age 65.

Age *Annual Savings Required
25 $10,500
30 $13,500
35 $17,500
40 $23,500
45 $33,000
50 $49,000


These amounts* were determined using an income calculator. The rate of return on investments used was 7 percent before age 65 and 3 percent thereafter. An inflation rate of 3 percent was included. The numbers also assume no current savings and do not take social security income into consideration. In each example, all the savings will run out at age 85.

As if these numbers aren’t scary enough, keep in mind that all annual savings (unless placed in a pre-tax retirement account) are after-tax dollars. In other words, if your current household income is $50,000 a year, you must pay 25% in taxes before putting your after-tax savings into your investments.

How many people are prepared?

Based on all the data I have reviewed and all the calculations I have done, I would bet that less than 3 percent of our population is currently on track with their savings and investments to maintain their current quality of life during their retirement years.

The baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) will start reaching age 65 in 2011. Guess how much they’ve saved. One report from 2008 indicated they had an average retirement savings of $38,000, excluding pensions, homes, and social security. Using 5 percent as an investment return rate, $38,000 would provide a monthly income of $158.

Putting together your plan

If enjoying a comfortable retirement is important to you, you cannot procrastinate with your retirement planning. You can’t hope and pray that somehow everything will work out. The baby boomers who had this attitude will soon pay the price for their lack of planning. The only bailout plan they can hope for is the guest bedroom at one of their children’s homes.

The quality of life you enjoy during your retirement years will largely be based on your decisions. Financial security comes from making a series of good financial decisions over time, while financial failure comes from making a series of poor financial decisions over time. In looking at your balance sheet, how have you been doing with your financial decisions?

Here are my suggestions:

1.  Make a commitment to yourself today that you are going to start making well-informed financial decisions. This includes educating yourself, seeking wise counsel, and proper planning.

2.  Get started NOW. According to Albert Einstein, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” No more procrastinating. It’s time to get started. The sooner you do, the sooner your money will start working for you.

3.  Determine your current household budget. If you aren’t actively following a budget, it’s time to start taking responsibility for your finances.

4.  Using an income calculator, get an idea as to the amount of money you will need to save each year to enjoy the lifestyle you desire during your retirement years.

5.  Meet with a certified financial planner or financial advisor with a proven track record THIS MONTH who can help you through this planning process. (Ask someone you respect for a referral or search here.) There are numerous factors beyond those used in an income calculator that need to be taken into consideration.

6.  Invest as much of the money you save into qualified retirement plans, such as a 401(k), Roth IRA, or SEP IRA. These types of plans will allow your investments to grow tax-deferred, and with some plans, you can invest pre-tax dollars. As an example, I wrote a check this week for my 2010 SEP IRA. This investment is subtracted from my gross income and, therefore, I do not pay taxes on this money until it is withdrawn. (It’s pre-tax dollars that grow tax-deferred.)

If your company offers a matching 401(k) program, I would highly suggest taking full advantage of it.

7.  Don’t make risky investments. I have seen far too many people get greedy and lose all their money. If something sounds too good to be true, run from it. You are better off living a reduced quality of life during retirement than no quality of life.

8.  Step up your game. Use this as motivation to become the best of the best at what you do. Move up the pay scale and become a leader in your field of expertise. Increasing your income gives you the best opportunity to properly prepare for retirement while maintaining an optimal lifestyle today.

If you are not on track to achieving your retirement income objectives, let me encourage you to take control of your finances in 2011 and start planning for your future.

Not planning for retirement is like living with a disease and not doing anything about it. Eventually, it will rear its ugly head; when it does, it will be too late.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.

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