When it comes to saving for retirement, the pressure is on. American adults say retiring comfortably in the U.S. costs more than ever, but what do the numbers actually look like?
Here’s how much you may need to retire comfortably, plus how you might be able to get there (even without the sure promise of Social Security income down the line).
Like everything else, retirement costs more than ever before.
Inflation is a malleable beast. It can seep into every aspect of your life, squeezing in places you really wish it would stay out of. That’s just the nature of rising costs — even as some goods and services increase in price more than others, everything feels the impact of inflation.
This is especially true given the 8.2 percent annual jump in the cost of living for consumers, according to September’s Consumer Price Index.
Naturally, the cost of living in retirement years is also increasing, which means workers are increasing their retirement savings goals to better account for inflation.
Here's how much Americans are saving for a comfortable retirement.
A Northwestern Mutual study shows that Americans are saving more than ever for a comfortable retirement. This year, respondents report needing $1.25 million for a comfortable retirement.
This is a 20-percent increase from last year’s metrics when Americans reported needing $1.05 million for a comfortable retirement.
That’s a big jump — even bigger than inflation. But retirement lasts for years and potentially even decades, so the metrics make sense.
What does it mean to "comfortably" retire?
In general, a comfortable retirement refers to maintaining the same lifestyle you had during your working years. Considering you saved for retirement and other savings goals during your working years, you don’t need to fully reach your salary from employment.
Instead, experts tend to recommend saving up to 80 percent of your salary so you can maintain those expenses with some left over.
The retirement age is creeping up to make up for higher costs.
Since retirement costs more, many Americans feel they need to work longer to pad their pockets. This year, people close to retirement say they’re working until age 64, on average. This is 1.4 years longer than last year’s estimates, when Americans reported retiring at age 62.6.
This contradicts the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) method that so many people tout. As costs jump, FIRE becomes more difficult to achieve.
In another study from Bankrate, 55 percent of working Americans feel as if they’re behind on their retirement savings goals given recent increases in the cost of living.
Bankrate reports, “In total, 55 percent of Americans say their retirement savings are not where they need to be, with nearly 35 percent saying they’re ‘significantly behind’ and another 20 percent saying they’re ‘somewhat behind’ their goals. In 2021, 52 percent of Americans said they were behind.”
So how do we, as working Americans, catch up? Reducing expenses, increasing the share of your salary that you save, and optimizing your investments (whether that be fixed-income securities, dividend stocks, or another tactic) may all help.
On top of that, give yourself some grace, because even thinking deeply about retirement savings means you’re headed in the right direction.