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Retirement Savings - How Much is Enough?

How much do you need to save for retirement?

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When it comes to retirement savings, asking someone you haven't met how much savings they need is like inquiring how long they figure it will take you to get to Los Angeles. They really ought to respond with some very basic follow-up questions like "Where are you now?" and "Are you driving or flying?"

When it comes to how much savings you'll need for retirement, there are several key questions and considerations you should evaluate as you contemplate a retirement, either with or without the assistance of a planner:

Retirement Savings Consideration # 1 - What do you envision for your retirement?

Does your ideal retirement life look a lot like the one you have now? Or would you hope to step it up a notch? Alternatively, you may crave the idea of an earlier retirement even at the expense of a lower standard of living. There's no right or wrong answer, but your anticipated retirement lifestyle is a critical component in answering the "How much savings will I need?" question.

Retirement Savings Consideration # 2 - What do you make today?

Your current income is a useful starting point for calculating your retirement planning savings needs. Odds are that the more you make today, the more savings you'll need in retirement - thanks to the lifestyle creep prevalent in today's society. If you're different than most, congratulations - you can probably have less savings. But it won't matter, because you're already saving more.

Retirement Savings Consideration # 3 - How much will you collect from Social Security? Will you receive any defined benefit pension benefits during retirement?

These monthly payments can subtract substantially from the amount you may have to save. Getting a good estimate is invaluable as you plan your retirement and determine your savings need.

Retirement Savings Consideration # 4 - When will you retire?

The younger you are when you retire, the longer you can expect to live during retirement. This means you'll need more saved. If you wait longer until retirement, not only will you be retired for a shorter amount of time, but you will also work more years, meaning you can save more.

Retirement Savings Consideration # 5 - How will you invest?

If you invest aggressively, you can reasonably expect a higher rate of return on your investments, meaning you'll have to save less compared to another individual who insists of keeping all investments in the bank's savings account.

How much have you saved already and how old are you now?

The younger you are and the more you have saved, the less you'll need to save in the future in order to achieve the same retirement standard of living as someone older or with less money saved up until this point. The early bird gets more than the worm.

As you can see, there isn't a one size fits all answer to the "How much should I save?" question of retirement. However, there is a rule of thumb. After you've determined what you think you'll need to live on during retirement, multiply it by 25. For example, if you think you'll need $40,000 a year, one rule of thumb says that you'll need 25 times that amount, or $1,000,000 in order to retire comfortably. On the other hand, if you 'd receive $15,000 in Social Security benefits each year and a $5,000 annual pension, you'd only need half of the $40,000 each year from your savings. Since you'll only plan on puling out about $20,000 each year, you'd need about $500,000 saved by your retirement date.

Still, a rule of thumb is not a rule of law. More importantly, everyone's retirement goals are personal and no one gets into trouble because they saved too much too soon.

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