Saving for retirement: are you on track?
Martha Myron, our personal finance expert, is taking a rare break from her Moneywise column this week. Instead we are running this highly informative piece on retirement fund planning by the financial education website, Investopedia, adapted in some places for our Bermuda readership.
Are you behind on saving for retirement? Even if you donít know what counts as ďbehindĒ, youíre likely to need to step up your efforts to build your nest egg. A June 2015 US Government Accountability Office analysis found that average Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 have accrued about $104,000 in retirement savings. Sound like a lot? Not when you realise that sum would translate into a $310 monthly payment if your money were invested in a lifetime annuity.
Even if youíre far from that age bracket, let this serve as a wake-up call. You donít want to stop working without enough money to live on. And what better time than the imminent start of a new year to make a resolution that youíre going to do better with your retirement savings this year. First, letís figure out where you should be at different stages of life and, second, float some suggestions of how to get there.
Youíre early in your career and your paycheque may be evidence of that fact. You may also have more than $30,000 in student loan debt if youíre the average graduate, according to a 2015 analysis by Edvisors.com, a website that provides data about college costs and financial aid. Having to make between $100 and $300 in student loan payments, along with an entry-level salary, explains why the average tewntysomething has an estimated median amount of $16,000 socked away, according to a survey by TransAmerica Centre for Retirement Studies.
The reason not to be alarmed: you probably have more than 40 years before you retire. Thatís a lot of time to make up the shortfall. The single most important thing to do? Contribute to the pension plan your employer offers; make the payment large enough to get the full benefit of the companyís matching contribution. Donít turn away free money.
Itís nice to be 30. Either youíve grown with the same company or youíve gained enough experience to get out of those entry-level pay grades. But life is more complicated now. You might be married, have a few kids, and maybe a home.
Everything from football boots to that unexpected car repair will easily take a bite out of your paycheque. Who has the money to save for retirement?
The stats seem to show it too. The average thirtysomething has about $45,000 saved. Depending on your annual salary you might be okay. According to Fidelity, the investment management firm, you should have about the equivalent of your annual salary saved as a nest egg. If youíre making $40,000, thatís what you should have in your retirement accounts.
If not, you may have not taken all the free money offered by your company in its pension fund match. Start or continue making those plan contributions up to the maximum company match; if you can, save more. You may be still paying on your student loans ó probably with a higher payment now ó so you might have to tighten up your family budget to make room for more saving.
Also, donít be too conservative with your investing choices. Youíre still young enough that any big market downswings shouldnít affect your ultimate course too drastically: your portfolio has time to recover. Even if youíre doing just fine with your savings, try to save more, because statistically, youíre likely to fall behind in later years.
Youíre in the prime of your career. Youíve paid your dues and now, hopefully, you have a salary that you can be proud of. With any luck, youíll come to the end of those student loan payments some time in this decade freeing up more money.
But the kids are older, the house is bigger, you might have to fork over money for a car or education for one of the kids, and if youíre honest, you might be blowing money in places that you could do without.
Statistically, most Americans are dangerously behind at this point, with an estimated median savings of only $63,000 ó a sum that falls well short of conservative benchmarks of a nest egg being three times their annual salaries.
If youíre making $55,000, you should have a balance of $165,000 already banked.
If you get a raise, put all of that money into retirement. If you no longer have student loan payments, commit those sums to retirement savings as well.
If you donít already have a pension fund, start one, especially if your company retirement plan options are less than ideal.
You donít feel old, and youíre not, but youíre only about 15 years away from the classic age at which you need your retirement money to live on. However, real life goes on. You might be paying kidsí college tuition, helping with car payments, gas, and any number of other expenses. The house is getting older and needs more fixing up, and maybe medical bills are rising. The estimated median savings of the average fiftysomething is about $117,000 ó far shy of the desirable four-to-five times your annual salary. If you made $60,000, you should have $240,000 saved ó at least.
If the kids are out of the house, it might be time to consider downsizing and collecting the appreciated value of your home. On the other hand, if you have company stock options or other assets, donít forget to consider those as part of your retirement funds, even if they donít sit in an account specifically for retirement purposes.
Consider meeting with a financial planner, especially one who specialises in retirement, to get things in order and carve out a strategy for your portfolio.
Now is when you begin to reap the rewards of decades of saving. At some point, youíll be using this money to support your lifestyle. By the time you reach 60, you should have six times your salary saved ó thatís $360,000 if you make $60,000 per year.
Unfortunately, the average sixtysomething has an estimated median of $172,000 in the bank. Not nearly enough. At this point itís hard to save enough to make up for the shortfall. Instead, look at your assets. What can be monetised at some point to help sustain you?
And donít forget your Bermuda pension. Most seniors find this to be a significant source of monthly income. The monthly pension will vary according to how much you have paid into it. You can contact the Department of Social Insurance to check that your contributions are up to date.
The Bottom Line
The amount youíll have for retirement is highly individualised. Nevertheless, there are benchmarks you can try to hit at every decade of your life. Itís never too early in your career to put a plan together ó but itís never too late to start, either.
This article was first published by the Investopedia website, at www.investopedia.com
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