How much is enough?

How much is enough (a.k.a. How much do I need to have saved to fund my retirement)? When it comes to retirement, that’s the question I get asked the most.  The answer is (not surprisingly) different for everyone.  Some can live like kings on $50,000 per year.  Others would have a hard time scraping by on ten times that amount.  It all depends on the type of lifestyle you want to live.

Because there is no hard and fast rule, people often end up saving randomly and then hoping that it will be enough.  This is a little like traveling without knowing where you’re going: Great if your only criteria is to get “somewhere,” but less than ideal if you have a particular destination in mind.

So how do you figure out how much you’ll need?  Here’s a quick and easy calculation that will give you a track to run on:

Step 1:  If you were to retire today, what would you want your annual income to be?

That’s a much easier question to answer than “How much is enough.”  Think about your plans for retirement.  Are you on track to have your house paid off?  Do you want to travel more?  Planning on moving to the beach?  Imagine that today is your last day at work (Hooray!).  Retirement starts tomorrow.  What kind of annual income do you need?  This Retirement Budget Worksheet can help.

Step 2: Subtract pension and Social Security income.

Take the number you came up with in Step 1 and subtract any income you expect to receive from a pension or Social Security.

Step 3: Multiply the answer from Step 2 by 25.

Research shows that if you want your retirement portfolio to last for 30 years, you should limit initial withdrawals to about 4 percent per year and then give yourself a “raise” each year based on the inflation rate.  Multiply your answer from Step 2 by 25 and you’ll have a portfolio big enough to generate the income you need assuming 4 percent withdrawals. 

Step 4: Adjust the answer from Step 3 for inflation.

The answer you came up with in Step 3 is the portfolio you would need if you planned on retiring today.  If you plan on waiting awhile, you’ll need more money because things get more expensive over time.  If you’re not retiring for another five years, multiply the answer from Step 3 by 1.22.  Ten years to go?  Multiply by 1.48.  For 15 years and 20 years, multiply by 1.80 or 2.19 respectively.* 

That’s it!  You now have a rough idea of how much you’ll need to fund your retirement.  And as G.I. Joe would say, “Knowing is half the battle.”  The other half is saving!  Touch base if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help.  Have a great week.


* These numbers assume an annual inflation rate of 4 percent.

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