Many Americans may be further behind on their retirement savings than they realize. According to a recent GOBankingRates survey, almost 63% of American adults have saved less than $50,000. The same survey revealed that over 37% think they need less than $500,000 to retire, and another 30% or so believe they need between $500,000 and $1 million.
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While the exact amount you need to save for retirement depends on your personal needs and living expenses, many financial experts recommend saving at least $1 million — or more if you live in a more expensive area.
How early you start saving can also impact how well prepared you’ll be for retirement. Over 41% of respondents said they started saving before 30 years old, but almost 17% started between 31-40 and another 12% didn’t start until 41-50. Almost one-fourth of adults haven’t even started yet.
If that’s where you find yourself today, it’s not too late to start saving for retirement. GOBankingRates spoke with financial experts to learn the best ways people in their 40s can approach retirement planning.
Don’t Rely On Social Security Alone
Over 20% of respondents told GOBankingRates they plan to rely completely on Social Security in retirement, and over 30% plan to rely on it for more than half of their income.
Others, however, are more skeptical of Social Security. Over 23% aren’t counting on it at all, and another 25% are expecting it to make up less than half of their retirement income. The majority believe Social Security either won’t exist when they retire (23%) or that it will offer much less than it does today (46%).
Jason Noble, a certified financial planner at Prime Capital Investment Advisors, warns against relying too much on Social Security.
“With the strain on Social Security, it’s expected to be depleted by 2035, according to the 2022 annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees,” Noble said. “There could be a 20% reduction in Social Security benefits, which would mean someone in their 40s would really need to save even more to offset the risk.”
Here’s some more information about Social Security:
Assess Your Cash Flow
When working with someone in their 40s who’s just starting to save for retirement, the first thing Noble does is figure out their cash flow. This means seeing how much money you earn, how much you spend and how much is left over.
This exercise can help you gauge how much you can reasonably save. After all, retirement planning in your 40s is doable, but you’ll need to save more.
“For instance, a 25-year-old saving $15,000 a year and getting an 8% annualized return and retiring at 60 would have approximately $2.79 million by the time they retire,” Noble said. “Someone who is 45 and earning an 8% annualized return would need to save $95,195 a year to get to $2.79 million by 60 years old.”
Here’s more information about saving for retirement:
Minimize Your Spending
You may find you need to cut back on your spending so you can save more. Noble encourages clients to list their expenses and mark them with an E or a D for essential and discretionary.
“A 41-year-old couple I work with did this exercise and put a D next to Starbucks, which was $435 each month,” he said. “They bought a coffee machine and are now saving an extra $400 per month. With an 8% annualized return and retiring at 65, that’s an extra $317,596, which has a big impact on their retirement plan.”
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Start Paying Down Debts
Next, Noble helps his clients figure out how to pay down their existing debts. He recommends first paying off any debts that have an interest rate of 6% or higher before paying off the rest.
“We will save at least [enough] to [get] their company’s [401(k)] matching while putting the rest toward this high-interest debt,” Noble explained. “After the high-interest debt is paid off, we take that same amount they were paying and put that money toward their retirement savings to get them on track toward their long-term goals.”
Diversify Your Investments, but Focus On Tax Efficiencies
The ideal way to invest, according to experts, is to start young and invest in a wide variety of assets. Here are some of the most popular ways Americans are investing, according to GOBankingRates’ survey:
- 401(k) or IRA: 52%
- Sticks: 39%
- property: 24%
- Crypto: 21%
- Bonds: 21%
- annuities: 11%
- Gold: 10%
- Index funds and ETFs: 10%
If you didn’t start early, you can still invest in assets beyond the typical IRA.
“You can certainly save enough, but time is no longer your friend,” said Mike Schudel, a financial advisor with Retire SMART. “Focusing on tax efficiencies in where you accumulate wealth will be very important.”
Assets such as real estate, farmland and rental properties are all tax-efficient ways to increase your wealth until retirement.
Schudel also advises those in their 40s to contribute to a Roth IRA. Unlike with a traditional IRA, your Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible. But you can withdraw money tax-free in retirement, which may save you money on taxes in the long run.
Here’s some more information about taxes in retirement:
More From GOBankingRates
Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 997 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country between August 9 and August 11, 2022, asking sixteen different questions: (1) How much money do you currently have saved for retirement?; (2) How much money do you think you’ll need to retire?; (3) Realistically, at what age do you want to be retired?; (4) At what age did you start saving for retirement?; (5) What worries you financially about retirement? (Select all that apply); (6) Do you plan to work in retirement?; (7) What assets do you have in your retirement portfolio? (select all that apply); (8) How has the current inflation impacted your retirement plans?; (9) How much of your retirement do you plan to fund with Social Security?; (10) How do you feel about the future of Social Security when you retire?; (11) What percentage of your salary are you currently investing for retirement?; (12) Are you planning to move after your retirement?; (13) Where is your ideal place to retire?; (14) What government programs do you plan to use for your retirement? (select all that apply); (15) Do you have a pension plan?; and (16) How much do you think the average American has saved at the time they retire?. GOBankingRates uses PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.