We research all brands listed and may earn a fee from our partners. Research and financial considerations may influence how brands are displayed. Not all brands are included. Learn more.

Updated by:
Published: Mar 20, 2024 10 min read
Filip Fröhlich for Money

The cost of living costs continue to rise, people are living longer, and corporate pensions are practically extinct. What does this mean for your money?

For one thing, it’s more important than ever to save for retirement — but not just by squirreling away money here and there, hoping that it will be enough by the time you’re ready to leave the workforce. That money also needs to grow over time to keep up with inflation.

A diversified investment portfolio can help protect your money's value as you age, reducing your risk of running out of retirement funds.

"The sooner you start, the more your money is going to be working for you," says Sri Reddy, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions at Principal Financial Group.

So don’t wait. If you start saving $100 a month with a 6% average annualized return on your investment, you’d have about $46,000 in 20 years. But if you wait 10 years to start saving and invest the same amount, you’d wind up with just $17,000 two decades from now, since you missed out on some of that early compound growth.

Here’s how much you should save for retirement, and how to get started.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Put a gold-backed IRA into your golden years
Gold IRAs are similar to traditional retirement accounts, but they are backed by investments in gold and other precious metals, such as silver, platinum, and palladium. To get started, click on your state.
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
Invest in Gold

Maximizing Social Security benefits

Social Security is an insurance program run by the federal government that provides income benefits to retirees, certain dependents of beneficiaries, people who are disabled and qualifying survivors of workers who have died. According to a 2020 report from the think tank National Institute on Retirement Security, 40% of older Americans rely completely on Social Security income in retirement to meet all of their expenses.

Once you turn 62, you're eligible for Social Security if you have enough "work credits," which you earn each year based on your annual income. Eligibility for most retirement benefits requires that you earned one credit on average for each year between age 21 and 62, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

While you're eligible to claim benefits when you turn 62, your monthly check will be about 30% less than if you wait until full retirement age (66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954, and gradually increasing until 67 if you were born between 1955 and 1960 — find your retirement age here). At your full retirement age, you receive 100% of your earned benefit. But if you can hang on until age 70, you’ll collect 24% to 32% more than your benefit at full retirement age.

Even if you're able to wait until age 70 for a fatter check, Social Security should not make up your entire retirement income plan. According to the SSA, retirees on average receive 40% of their pre-retirement income via the program. So make sure you are saving elsewhere.

How much should I save for retirement?

The amount you need to have saved up for retirement varies by individual and depends on several factors. First, you'll want to consider the age at which you want to retire and your desired lifestyle.

“People's views of what they want to do in their second chapter varies very drastically,” Reddy says.

But you don’t have to be certain about your future to make a plan. If you want to have a lifestyle in your retirement consistent with the one you have during your career, financial services corporation Fidelity’s rule of thumb is to try to save 10 times your income by the time you’re 67. That means saving one times your salary by the time you're 30, three times your salary by age 40, six times your salary by age 50 and eight times your salary by age 60.

Keep in mind that all the planning in the world is not going to make up for unexpected events, like losing a job, getting a divorce or health problems. Have a plan and work toward a goal, but recognize that it’s okay if it goes off track, Reddy says. When that happens, he recommends reassessing your income, savings, future outlook and goals.

You may have to readjust your plan by pushing your retirement date out, or by opening a long-term care insurance policy to help cover the cost of extended healthcare.

If you're struggling with making a plan on your own, you might want to hire a financial advisor who can help you out.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Take control of your financial future
Achieve greater financial security by providing effective solutions that can help protect your wealth. Click below to start investing today!
Invest in Gold

How much of my income should I save for retirement?

Once your paycheck hits your bank account, it can be hard to part with any of it. If you have a retirement account like a 401(k), it's best to automatically divert some money to your retirement account before you can touch it. Fidelity recommends saving 15% of your income to reach that 10-times your salary savings goal by the time you're 67 (that includes an employer’s match).

That 15% might seem like a lot, especially when you’re just starting out in your career and juggling other financial priorities. It's important to save what you can as early as you can and try to increase that percentage over time, says Melissa Ridolfi, vice president of retirement and college planning at Fidelity Investments. So if you’re starting out with a 401(k) contribution that doesn’t get you to that 15% total, try to bump it up each year, or whenever you can afford to.

And remember that once you enter the workforce after college, your income will likely keep increasing — but that doesn’t mean you should keep upping the cost of your lifestyle, Reddy says. The more you prioritize things like upgrading your car or home, the more you’ll need to save for retirement to keep up with that kind of lifestyle.

“Enjoy your life,” Reddy says, but if you get a raise of 3% to 4%, you should pocket 1% to 2% and put the rest towards savings.

Where should I put my retirement savings?

Saving so much for the future might seem overwhelming, but there are tools to help. Tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts can help you make the most of your savings. Some are connected to your employer, while others are attached to you individually and follow you throughout your career.

An employer-sponsored account, like a 401(k), allows savers to invest tax-deferred dollars and postpone paying taxes until they withdraw money from the account as retirees. Many employers offer a contribution match, so if you contribute 3%, for example, the company will also contribute 3%. Everyone should at least contribute enough to get the maximum match from their employers, Ridolfi says.

“If you don’t, it’s like leaving free money on the table,” she adds.

Over time, aim to contribute a higher percentage of your income to your 401(k), even if your employer only matches up to a certain point.

If you’re a gig worker or otherwise don’t have an employer who offers a 401(k) benefit, an individual retirement account (IRA) might make sense for you. With a traditional IRA, you contribute pre-tax dollars, while with a Roth IRA you pay taxes upfront and withdraw money tax-free in retirement. You can open up these accounts quickly and easily, either with an online financial institution or a traditional brick-and-mortar bank.

If you’re early in your career and believe you'll be making more later in life, a Roth IRA might be your best bet. This way, you pay your income taxes when you're in a low tax bracket and can enjoy tax-free withdrawals when you're (presumably) in a higher bracket later in life.

You employer might also offer a high-deductible health insurance plan with a health savings account, or HSA, which Reddy recommends taking advantage of. You can make tax-deductible contributions to these accounts to help pay out-of-pocket medical expenses. And once you turn 65, you can make withdrawals for qualified medical expenses tax-free, giving you even more of a tax advantage than a 401(k) or IRA.

Overall, it’s all about knowing your options, and picking the ones that makes the most sense for you.

“Having a plan is the most important thing you can do,” Ridolfi says. Decide how much you're going to save, how you’re going to save and increase those savings when you can.

More from Money:

What Is Long-Term Care Insurance?

8 Best Gold IRA Companies of 2024

How to Open a Roth IRA

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.Ad
American Hartford Gold can help you take control of your financial future