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Home » 401K, Retire, Retirement Planning

The Shockingly Low Amount of Retirement Savings per American

Last updated by on 144 Comments

Average Retirement Savings per American

According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute’s 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey, 57% of workers in the U.S. have less than $25,000 in total savings and investments.

With pension plans being a thing of the past, saving for your own retirement is increasingly important. The government is starting to realize that if it doesn’t begin encouraging savings now, the expense of completely supporting tens of millions of retirees who have zero retirement savings will be catastrophic for the country. Now is the time for action.

These statistics get me absolutely fired up! My employer has a 401K match of 50% of my contributions up to the IRS maximum 401K contribution. That is an incredible benefit that I would never take for granted. However, a number of my colleagues don’t take advantage of this free cash while having no home, no kids, and no major expenses. If they aren’t taking advantage of this benefit, it’s easy to see why workers who aren’t getting a nice match are not saving at all. It kind of makes me sick on behalf of their future self looking back with regret.

I have the feeling that a good many of you are exceptions to these statistics. But why? How are most Americans not getting the message?

Retirement Savings Discussion:

  • How much have you saved for retirement and what is your age?
  • Why have you decided to save?
  • If you could tell peers of yours why they should start saving, what would you say?

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144 Comments »
  • R S says:

    Age: 26 w/ hefty mortgage
    Roth: put in 13k, curr. bal.10k :-\
    401k: put in 8k, curr. bal: 10k despite matching.
    Wanted to max company match.
    Planning now will save you distress in the future..

  • julie says:

    I think the reason most people don’t save for retirement as much as they should is the same reason most Americans overspend and are in credit card debt: they prefer immediate gratification. You COULD save up until you can afford whatever you are purchasing on your credit card, but then you would have to WAIT FOR IT!!! God forbid you don’t get a new laptop this week! Same reason they aren’t saving for retirement, they would prefer money now than significantly more 40 years from now.

    I just turned 22, and I have about $5,000 combined in both roth and 401(k) accounts. My employer matches my contributions up to 6%. I’ve been working full time since July, and since I currently have no real expenses (still living at home), I contribute about 25% of my income.

    I don’t have much to say to my peers because I believe any educated person knows why they should save, and I shouldn’t have to convince them. Just like everyone knows cigarettes are harmful to your health, but some still smoke. Everyone can screw themselves over however they want.

    • Bill says:

      Julie, I think you hit the key to wealth building is controlling your expenses. Regardless of how much you make if you spend it all (or more in most cases) you will still be broke.

      Income is not important it is your net worth that counts. It’s not what you make but what you keep that determines what your (net) wealth will be. There are stories of people who make $40,000 or less throughout their lifetime who became millionaires in their lifetime.

      There is a very good book you should read called the “Millionaire Next Door” by Dr. Thomas Stanley and William Danko. The rule of thumb for determining what your Net Worth (Assets – Liabilities (Debt)) should be:

      (Realized income from all sources x your age)

      • Bill says:

        Sorry, hit the enter key before I completed my thought.

        The formula for determining what your net worth should be is:

        (Realized income from all sources x your age)/10

        So a 40 year individual who makes $75,000 a year, net worth should be $300,000 according to this formula :

        ($75,000 x 40)/10 = $3,000,000/10 = $300,000.

        This formula distorts the number as you are younger (under 30) but is right on as you get closer to retirement. If you are married and have multiple incomes I would combine the income and average of both spouses.

    • Heather says:

      Julie:

      I admire your saving, but isn’t it time to let your poor parents off the hook and move out???

  • David says:

    I am 28 years old. Between my wife and I we have about 86,000 in retirement savings. My wife gets a decent match with her employer, but my employer offers no match. Fortunately both of us started saving when we had full time jobs out of college. With each raise we have gotten, we put more into retirement (and other savings). Since we didn’t have the money before, we didn’t really miss it.

    I decided to save because I understand how much the money that I put in now can be worth by the time I retire. I know that if I were to wait until I was older, I would have to either put away more money each month, work longer, or have less during retirement. I didn’t like any of those options.

    • Leon Vicerman says:

      David
      Have Yu ever looked into stocks that over their own Dividend Reinvestment Plan also there are companies that will ate so much money out of Your checking or savings automatically and reinvestment it monthly for You, some as low as $10,00 a month. It’s a great way to save money. Like to talk to You about it.

  • Adam says:

    I’m 28. I have about $3k in my 401K. My employer matches 50%.

    I’m not really sure how this all works, but it appears my 401K has gone up slightly in market value YTD.

  • Adam says:

    Ah, after reviewing it, it appears I can contribute up to 6% of my paycheck with my employer matching it directly; any more and I’m on my own.

  • Daniel @ Sweating The Big Stuff says:

    I’m 22, started working about 3 months ago, and have $1,200 in my unmatched Roth 401(k), with another $2,000 to be added to my retirement savings by the end of the year, split between that account and a Roth IRA.

    Although I don’t get a match (I’m so jealous of you!), I have extra income now, and I’ve read too much about the power of compounding to ignore it, even if I only have a small amount to save.

    Many of my friends have not started saving yet. The ones who are employed do, but for others, it is hard to save when their parents are helping pay rent. I realize that this puts them at a disadvantage for the future and am hoping they find jobs soon that encourage them to save a substantial amount.

    On a separate note, what are the main differences between a Roth 401(k) and a Roth IRA, other than the withdrawal rules (hopefully I won’t be withdrawing at all)? For Roth IRAs, if I deposit $1,000 today, will I be able to withdraw all future contributions (not earnings) after 5 years from today? Or does the time period follow each investment?

  • julie says:

    FruFal,

    I never understood why people would say “we don’t need to worry about that YET”. So what? Eventually it will be a big concern, and it’s not that difficult to prevent it now. It just doesn’t make sense. Unless they plan to die an early death (before retirement), why WOULDN’T they worry?

  • FruGal says:

    I’m not surprised to read this at all, and I’m sure the state of things here in the UK is similar. I contribute as much as possible every year to mine.

    Until the proverbial hits the fan I don’t think most people will realise the problem. The national pension will probably not longer exist here in the UK by the time my generation retires. The baby boomers will (as usual) get the best of things and leave nothing for the rest of us.

    It makes me worry when I hear my friends still saying things like, ‘we don’t need to worry about that yet’, when we’re nearly thirty. Because of the way compound interest works, you’re far better off saving a little over a longer period of time, than saving a lot later in life. If you haven’t already, start saving now, even if it’s only a little bit!

  • stephv says:

    I am 27, I have $5500 in my 401(k). I had about that amount a year and a half ago before the market did it’s thing… That was just from profit sharing at my old company. I started a new job a year ago and they also do profit sharing (10% of my salary) which is really great. I started contributing 2% in January and with the good market plus my contributions my rollover amount has increased $2k in just about 10 months. Can’t complain about that. I am working on getting out of credit card debt (and getting close) once that is done hopefully by July 2010 I plan to up my contribution and have made my goal to have $30k in my 401k when I’m 30. I think this is a reasonable goal and am getting excited about retirement! Lol…

  • Derek Coatney says:

    After reading Nudge I have found that a lot of people’s behavior is based on the lack of interest or knowledge. What can be done by employers is to help making better defaults and choice architecture. With this work you can still give the control to the individual, but ensure that if no action is taken they would start saving something. For example, my company automatically enrolls you in the company 401k and starts contributing just a few % of each check. This is a great default to get people started. The next step is helping make the many decisions that go into choosing funds, bonds, etc comprehensible for someone who has no experience and little interest.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    Lots of good comments here. It sounds like you all are putting forth a solid effort. At the very least, EVERYONE should get their employer’s free match. EVERYONE. There’s no excuse not to.

    @ R S – not bad for 26.
    @ Daniel – check out my Roth IRA post: http://20somethingfinance.com/blog/2009/01/25/roth-ira-basics-in-a-question-and-answer-format/
    and my Roth 401k post: http://20somethingfinance.com/blog/2008/02/17/roth-401k-vs-traditional-401k/
    @ Julie – angry, but hard to refute.
    @ David – you’re rocking it, man. Keep up the good work. Paying yourself first is always a good strategy.
    @ Adam – 6% of your paycheck is not bad. Hope you’re taking advantage of it.
    @ Frugal – agreed.
    @ Derek – maybe employer’s should make it mandatory for employee’s to watch documentary’s about 90 year olds working at Wal-Mart greeters b/c they didn’t save anything for retirement.
    @ Stephv – sounds like you’re executing on your plan. Glad to hear that you’re excited about it. That’s a good step.

  • FruGal says:

    Julie,

    I don’t get it either! Although I have a bad feeling that a lot of my female friends honestly believe their knight in shining armour will come along and save them from financial worries, so they won’t have to think about such things.. sad but true!

  • I just don’t believe these statistics. I truly believe a lot of people have much more than that. It’s just hidden and untraceable by the government.

    $18K in savings…. at 43 is WAY too little. That’s only 13 months of savings in your 401K! What’s everybody doing?

    I think there’s much more money out there than anybody thinks.

    • gk says:

      13K in a 401K is NOT savings. That should be considered retirement money. They should have 13K in some cash account or short term investment they can access in case of emergencies. So many people I know look at the 401k as just something they can raid if they have to. Should lose that mind set really quickly

  • Robert says:

    Lots of retirees saw their 401k accounts plummet by 40% or more when the recession struck. I’m sure this punt a huge dent in retirement savings.

  • FinanciallySmart says:

    Some persons does not save for Retirement because they were taught that owning a home and having children is their retirement pension. This uneducated stance allowed a lot of persons to depend on the government when they reach retirement age because they were not told to save towards it. It is wonderful that Governments in various countries are taken the time out to educate its citizenry about the importance of having his/her own Retirement Plan.

    What we should remember is not what we earn but what we save.

  • Dave says:

    I’m 23 and my employer matches 50% up to my first 6%. So, I’m contributing 6% to a Roth 401(k). Living within my means, saving 25% of pre-tax income, thanking lucky stars for managing to graduate debt-free from a good school, etc.

    I’ve got a three-month emergency fund already set up, and have some extra savings accruing with no clear objective (not getting married or buying a house any time soon). Before taxes are due in April 2010, I’d like to decide whether to (1) open up a Roth IRA or (2) invest the money otherwise so I can get it back before 2053 rolls around. Decisions, decisions.

  • Gregory says:

    I’m 30 years old and have about $170,000 in my 401K, but also another $200,000 in CD’s. I don’t make a ton… just a steady 100-150,000/yr.

    A lot more people have a lot more money than these statistics show.

    The funny thing is that there are all these personal finance blogs written by pretty poor people. The irony is amazing.

  • julie says:

    Gregory,

    It’s interesting you say you “don’t make a ton” and blogs are written by “poor” people. Statistically, you DO make a ton. In NYC, in 2007 the median income was a bit over 48k, and the mean was around 75k. So you do make a ton, congratulations!

  • Alex Buirda says:

    Australians have compulsory superannuation of 9%. Once it goes out of your pay you don’t miss it. The clever people add their own contributions in addition to the 9%. Although you need to wait for retirement to access the money it must be a godsent for people that have done this throughout thir working career.

    I would love to be in a comfortable position at retirement to buy a caravan and travel Australia with my wife. My superannuation fund will ensure that I do this in style.

  • Pat says:

    I am 50, just changed jobs (intentionally)I make 75,000 anually, I cashed out my 401K to help bail out my houshold, I have zero savings, $400,000 mortgage and 2 kids, I cannot save ANY MONEY!!, I don’t care how much my employermatches, you guys don’t get it average americans dont make enought to do it!!I am certain that when it is time to retire, It wont be possible, I am 100% depended on social security

  • promark420 says:

    Pat, at you’ll be able to receive Social Security checks. My generation will receive paltry amounts of Social Security, if at all. That’s also why Social Security withholding irritates me to no end.

    As an accountant, at the tender age of 26, I’ve learned to trust only myself with money. I set up my contribution amounts and investment funds through my firm’s 401(k). I contribute only 12% to my 410(k), but only because my company matches 25% up to 12%. I contribute $50 every other week to my Roth IRA and another $25 every other week to an emergency savings account.

    I know I’m not that old, but I feel like I’m already playing catch up with retirement because I’ve only been working for two years. My retirement savings right now is at around 9,200-401(k) and 4,100-Roth IRA. Fortunately, I’ve been feeding both as the market has rebounded. It hurt last year to see a declining balance even though I was contributing regularly, but now I feel pretty smart for sticking to dollar cost averaging. It’s not a glamorous way to save for retirement, and I know I stand to lose out on potentially bigger returns, but it’s still effective for my goals.

    I prepared a tax return for a buddy of mine last year. He’s two years older than I am (28). No debt, no kids, no home mortgage, yet his W-2 didn’t show any 401(k) contributions. The maddening part? I know the company he works for matches 150% on the first 4% of contributions. Pretty sad.

  • Bret says:

    I’m 27, income of ~$135k.

    Currently $40k in my 401K, and another $10k in Roth IRAs.

    Contribute $20k/yr to my 401K, 5k/yr to a non-deductible IRA (I can’t contribute to a Roth IRA directly due to income limits, so I’ll convert into a Roth IRA in 2010 when that is allowed for tax diversification).

    There are plenty of exceptions to the stats, but the stats don’t lie. The whole recession was caused by people living beyond their means, and people still largely have an attitude of spending everything they make (and often more). This behavior isn’t limited by their income — my father is a CPA with clients that are typically small business owners or higher income people (say incomes of $200k – $1m) and he says its amazing to see how often people can make half a million a year and still spend all of it.

  • Joes Money says:

    It is completely ridiculous that houses with average age of 43 have only $18k in savings. I am 26, wife is 24. We are closing in on $65k already.

  • Ryan says:

    I am 25, and I have $30k saved up. My company gives me 10% profit sharing, and I contribute another 10%.

    The goal is to have $100k by the time im 30.

  • Anna says:

    I’m 24, and I have $8,500 in my 401(k). I finally did the research about Roth IRAs and opened one last week. It only has $20 in it so far, but I’m working on it!

  • JAMES CLIFTON says:

    I’m 65,I have $705,443.00 for Retirement so far.Will get SS of $1932mo.starting 11/13/06.Retiring Apr.2010.I think I’ll be ok!
    Jim

  • Tomas says:

    I’m 25, $64K in my 401k and another ~$100K mostly in brokerage accounts, high percentage of it in stock. Guess I’m not doing bad :P

  • Julie says:

    I’m 27. My husband and I have a combined balance of 170K in our 401K. He is 29.

  • julie says:

    The numbers posted on finance blogs are going to be higher than the average American because these are people who take more interest in their finances (and tend to save more) than the clueless masses.

  • stephanie says:

    Do you think people would save more for retirement if Social Security didn’t exist? I really think that since everyone who works has it withdrawn from their paychecks, they feel like that money is owed to them later and therefore they will get it. Even though we all say we don’t expect the money to be there when we retire, I don’t think most people really believe that the government will let us “fail” – just like they bailed out the banks, auto industry, etc., everyone secretly believes that the government will bail them out too in their retirement. Because it is “owed” to them since they contributed in. I think most people don’t realize that just because it is “owed” to you doesn’t mean the money will be there!

    I would be the first to say that I don’t think the government will have money when I retire (I’m 25). But if I think about it honestly, I do believe that the government will still send me a SS check, even if they have to keep getting further into debt to do it. That being said, I currently have about $11k in my retirement accounts and am continuing to contribute $200/month to my Roth even though I’m back to being a full-time student for grad school and only working part-time (so no more 401(k) contributions for a while).

  • julie says:

    Stephanie,

    I just view the social security tax as another tax which I will never recover. I know I am paying for other people’s retirement, but there’s no guarantee that someone will be paying for mine. If the government does end up sending me a check, I doubt it will be for over $200 a month anyways. Or something really low so I won’t be able to depend on it anyways. Just another injustice in the world, coming out of my paycheck.

    Also, I have direct deposit, and I never look at my pay stub, so I hardly remember that something is being deducted. If there was no social security tax, I would save more money simply because I’d have more money to save.

    As for other people, I do agree that people assume the government will always be there for them. Which is interesting, since that means we all wish we were living in a socialist society–but this is America, you’re only supposed to look out for yourself here.

  • Waldo says:

    * How much have you saved for retirement and what is your age?

    23, and I have about $18k in a 401(k) after a year of work with the last seven months at a 25% contribution level (plus varying quarterly contributions by my employer), the previous five at some de minimis amount. (I discovered a couple weeks ago that I maxed out on 401(k) contributions, boo hiss. Next year by mid-year I’ll certainly have 401(k) contributions to burn [or rather what would be contributions in a just world with a flat tax rather than the current distorting American system].) I’m uncertain where I’m best off putting further money (depending on tax/salary ramifications of the 401(k) bit I might be best off with either Roth or traditional IRAs) and need to discuss it with my dad, who’s always been actively engaged by personal finance matters. I’m not rushed because I’m behind on charitable giving and will spend most of the rest of the year’s extra money reconciling that (although I’ll open the IRA account this year to max out its contributions in the early part of next year).

    * Why have you decided to save?

    I make more money than I want to or am capable of bringing myself to spend, I have no family or liabilities (outside student loans that were ~$45k a year ago and ~$18k now; the extra kick once that liability’s payments are gone will help savings a lot next year, although some will go into somewhat more liquid form for nearer-term purchases like a house when I have a family), and I have nothing better to do with it.

    * If you could tell peers of yours why they should start saving, what would you say?

    Umm…I guess peace of mind in thirty-ish years. I know I’m basically oversaving by most rational analyses of my situation (perhaps hard to believe of anyone, but my 401(k) savings were likely comparable to all my expenses outside student loans the entire year, so odds are I’ll waste much of my retirement savings on inheritances for my heirs ;-) ), but if I have the flexibility to retire earlier, or be less stressed as I approach retirement, why not jump at it?

  • Daniel says:

    I put the maximum allowed in 18.5% and I’m over 50 years old so I also put 18.5% in the “catch-up”. The company matches 25 cents on the dollar for only the first 4%. The pay checks are very small when 37% of your pay is withheld and frugality is a must.

  • manski says:

    401K is a SCAM. Saving money? Why? What if you die tomorrow? All that money goes to what? Spend! Live! Don’t be such a Scrooooge.

  • julie says:

    Manski,

    That’s completely true. Since we all have sugar daddy’s (or mommy’s) to support us just in case we become too old or no longer want to work, it seems obvious that we should spend each penny we have. I guess the only people who should save money are those without a support system of cash in case they are alive several decades from now….

  • tricia says:

    I’m 46 and my husband is 50. We make about $160K per year and in the past couple of years became more serious about putting money into our 401Ks: we max out ($32K) our contributions plus have employer contributions totalling $13K and make non-deductible contributions to our Roth accounts. Currently, we have about $1.1M in retirement savings which is down from its peak but recovering.

    We live in a high real estate market (boston) so only recently bought our small apartment for half a million with 50% downpayment and a 15 year fixed 4.5% mortgage that will be paid off before we retire. We also have a mortgage free beach cottage. Obviously we’re better than average savers – with no feelings of privation, I might add. What are all these people our age w steady middle class incomes w nothing to show for it doing with all their money? We have a nice car and travel well; we just don’t spend money on lots of toys or junk and rarely use credit cards. Other than the mortgage, we have no debt.

    It sounds like we should be fine but we are also well aware that our elderly parents could need expensive care as they age, our kids (freshman and junior in top private colleges whose college accounts took a beating last year so what we thought would see them through grad school w/o loans will just get them through their undergrad institutions) might need our help or that our jobs, seemingly quite stable, could turn out not to be. For these reasons, we don’t feel like we can let up in terms of saving and are actually a bit nervous about outliving our savings (we both have excessive longevity genes.)

  • Stephen Settle says:

    Saving for the future is a wise decision that every person should take in their life as it would secure your future. Every penny saved now is worth your hard work in future.

  • manski says:

    Julie, you are cute. Will you go out with me?

  • Julie says:

    Sorry, manski, I’m in a monogamous relationship.

  • Collection debt agency says:

    One of the problems is that your taking a survey during the recession. I would think the numbers would be a lot higher 5 years ago.

  • Brad says:

    Not sure if anyone still reads this thread since I am a little late to the party, but I just found the site and I think it is great for feedback.
    Im 29 and have 78k in 401k, 15k in a broad-based Vanguard mutual fund, 19k in a ING savings account and 116k was used a a down payment on a house last summer. I am not rocket-scientist smart but make just north of 130k a year, and have done my best to put myself in a good position, and want to do better.

    I am saving so that (hopefully) I will have a greater amount of flexibily as I age. Right now I am happy as can be living below my means and appreciating non-material items. My dog and wife (not necessarily in that order) make me happier than any car ever would and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper (I have noticed the dog is much cheaper than the wife-ha).

    If things ever don’t work out for Julie and her bf I am sure she could take her pick of a number of guys on this site. Reading her posts were more of a turn-on than a good playboy issue- her bf has a keeper. Good for her to empower herself financially and not be dependant on anyone else. I know plenty of guys that are financially wreckless, but the personal financial ignorance from the majority of otherwise well-educated women I know is astounding. Fathers- teach your daughters how to manage money.

    Sorry I went off topic a bit there, I am happy to hear feedback/advice. does anyone recommend a good site for 30somethings?

    • G.E. Miller says:

      @ Brad – Keep it in your pants, man. =)
      Genxfinance.com is the best site out there for 30-somethings that I know of. Also, if you stick around here, I think that you’ll find a lot of the content is truly not age specific and applicable to anyone. Thanks for stopping by. – GE

  • Julie says:

    Brad, thanks. My father is a financial advisor.

    I get email alerts when people reply here, so yes, people still read this thread.

  • manski says:

    Brad’s such a womanizer. He must not be earning a lot of tips for earning only 130K a year for doing strip dancing at the gay bar.

  • Grouch says:

    42 years old, make about 20-25 grand taxable income per year. Have roughly 130 grand in IRA’s, cd’s, savings bonds,cash,silver, and other precious metals(guns).

    My only debt is my house and it is 2/3 paid off.
    I still feel like I’m desperately behind because as a Country we are in deep, deep crap and our politicians will screw us. If we rely on our government for retirement or to do what is right for the people we will die digging ditches for China when we are 90.

    Money can’t buy happiness, but with enoough of it you can pick your own misery.

  • Samantha says:

    I’m new to this site (high school teacher on winter break, whoop whoop!) But I have to say from my experience it seems that most of the 20somethings in this discussion seem like national outliers and the 40 and 50somethings are more representative of the national averages. When you grow up in an upper-middle class family (I did not) or attended a high-ranking university (I did) your perceptions of reality are really skewed.

    That said, as a public school teacher in a wealthy suburban district I only make $60k right now but I am fortunate to have an amazing pension — the average of my last three years of salaries paid in full every year until I die (plus annual COAL). Not bad considering I can retire in full at 52…only 23 years to go! I realize, though, that I too am an outlier because a) I have a pension and b) I don’t teach for the average school system. On top of it all, I don’t work three months out of the year, so I get an annual mini-retirement.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Samantha – wow, teaching never looked so good!

  • Dub says:

    Age 23, Roth IRA $4600 (self employed), first year saving for retirement

    Saving for peace of mind. I live in a crappy apartment and it breaks my heart to see all of the old people that live there. I want to be comfortable in retirement, live in my own home, and have the money to travel and live life to the fullest.

  • Another Julie says:

    Age 25 – annual income $118k
    403b $11k, Roth IRA $5k, Savings (Liquid) $30k

    I’ll probably get slapped for admitting this but I started my retirement savings late because I wanted to aggressively pay off my student loans ($50k) first. And to be completely honest, personal finance was (& still is) rather stressful and I couldn’t handle more on my plate. And I didn’t feel too bad because my employer did not have any matching 403b contributions.

    But I feel ready to handle being a little more financially responsible now… Current goals: Max out 403b + Roth IRA, Saving towards downpayment on owning first property (looking at the $300k range)

    Questions:
    - Just curious, do you use the services of financial advisor? If you do, what is a reasonable rate for services?
    - Do you have “umbrella insurance”?
    - I read somewhere on this website – not to spend more than 30% of your take-home income (25% if you can help it) on your housing payment. Conservatively, that’s $15k per year or $1250 per month… that seems like very little house, no?
    - And I paid about 22k in taxes last year, only to get 3k back… would it be in my advantage to just on owning property (I mean, putting little money down & stretching out the mortage)?

    P.S. Thanks for your feedback! And great site!

  • Gritts says:

    yeah, I have not done a great job in the past saving and investing my money on a regular basis. I was always a penny-pincher growing up and was able to invest a little back in the day, but ever since I got married and had a ton of expenses i have not been responsible with that.

    I’m getting back on track though. http://financialsecrets101.com is showing me how to automate my finances and save on an automatic basis so that I don’t have to remember to be disciplined every month. This has worked wonders for me.

    I’m with you on how scary it is in regards to our generation saving so little. Most of us are not going to be prepared for retirement. And by then our government will probably be bankrupt or something ridiculous like that and wont be able to bail us out. I don’t want to be part of this majority!

    Thanks for your insight.

  • Steve says:

    I am 51 years old. Currently have $570,000 in 401k/IRA’s……and approximately pproximately $1 million in indiviual equities, mutual funds and cash……………..house worth about $375,000 paid off………I still feel behind!

    • G.E. Miller says:

      @ Steve – You’re sitting pretty. If I had that kind of portfolio at your age, I don’t think I’d be too worried.

    • spike says:

      Steve, you feel behind because…?

      Either you are being dishonest about your holdings or you are bragging. I have 310k in my 401k about about 400k equity in my house. I don’t feel “behind”, I feel about normal.

      • Jeff Walden says:

        He might also be obliquely noting that fear of not being able to provide for yourself is a powerful emotion. Moreover, it’s an emotion so powerful that even someone who has no rational reason to fear may still feel its effects. Why not interpret Steve’s comment generously, rather than looking to take offense at it?

      • Steve says:

        I am neither dishonest nor am I bragging. The choice word “behind” was probably not the best. “Secure” may be a more accurate term. I have worked hard and saved diligently for 35 + years. Not bragging, just a fact. I was brought up by parents who witnessed what the real Great Depression did to their parents. I’m suffering career burnout, now at age 53 and am uneasy of what the next moves need to be.That is really what I meant.

  • Streve says:

    I find this board interesting. I did not realize that it is for 20 somethings………there are some very bright young people here. My advice to you 20 somethings……..have fun, live within your means……AND DON’T GET DIVORCED!
    Good luck to you all in your careers and endeavors.

  • Chris says:

    I’m a 23 year old 2008 college graduate making 50-55k a year with my first job. I started about 4 months ago and have $4,000 saved in a money market account. Any advice on how to proceed with saving/investing?

    • Bill says:

      Chris,

      Until you understand much of the financial hurdles and issues with investing, the best advice I can give you is to purchase indexed mutual funds that own the market (S&P, DOW, Foreign) using Indexed Mutual Funds. These mutual fund returns beat 75% of the professionally managed mutual funds. Why? Because index funds require no active management and their fees are substantially less than 1%. Do some research on Indexed funds and how they compare to actively managed funds. Google for articles by John Bogle who was the brains behind indexed funds. He was the founder of Vanguard Mutual funds but I’m not suggesting you go to Vanguard because many mutual fund companies offer Indexed mutual funds.

      This is close approximation to Warren Buffet’s “Buy and Hold strategy” because there is limited trading on your behalf, only to the extent that you purchase additional shares but rarely sell. Limited cost means less commissions for investment advisors which means you keep more of your money! The stock market average return for the last 70+ years is between 11-12%, with no 5 year period ever losing any money. This is not SHORT TERM investing but “Buy and Hold” investing. Forget you invested it and let it grow, but limit the amount of expenses you pay.

      You should only pay for financial advice if you need it. When you turn over your money to an actively traded fund (i.e. let your advisors manage your investments), they will charge you on average 2% or more a year for the priviledge of “managing” your investment. When I say that index funds beat 75% of actively traded funds I’m saying that 2,250 Mutual fund returns were equal to or less than indexed funds. By saving on the expense you will save over 70% of your return over the 40+ years you will have until you retire.

      I’m now 60+ and my net worth is around $1.6 million, but it could have been substantially more if I knew then what I know now.

      Good luck and God Bless.

      • Ron says:

        I agree. I am 48, retired from the Army at 42 and financially independent. I have $400K in savings and own two homes. All I can say is look for inexpensive well known established mutual fund companies (Vanguard) and compare operating expenses. I started saving at 20 years old and nothing compares to compound interest. Time is on your side if you are young. You must be aggressive when your young.

        • mike says:

          I say thank you for your service but dang how much of are tax payer money are you guys really making?

          • Ron says:

            Mike, Thanks for your support. Being in the Active US Army, I was paid 100% by yours, mine, and all tax paying Americans, tax dollars. Now my retirement pay comes from tax dollars too. I also have my investments that pay dividends and rental income. I made a conscious decision on my career, I rolled the dice and came out alive, a little beat up, but hey I was a warrior. Veterans benefits are slowly being whittled away though. A promise was made and now the situation is changing for some of us.

  • Robert says:

    As the value of a 401k drops, the American savings for retirement will dwindle even further.

  • SaraH says:

    Feel like I’m at the low end here…I’m 26, have an income of about $30k, RothIRA of $2.5k, savings $3.5k and most of that is because I am one of those boomerang kids that recently came home to take care of my ill widowed mother and get her house in order.

    Before, I lived a missionary life traveling and making enough to put a dent in my educational debt. It’s now down to $6.5k!

    Thankfully I have no revolving credit debt either. But you that have gone before me in the comments certainly have your ducks in a row.

    :O)

  • Jessica says:

    26 years old, Debt free, $60k in 401k, Make too much for Roth IRA. Not a bad problem to have and I wouldn’t invest in one anyways if I could since I would rather pay taxes on it later when I’m not withdrawing nearly as much from the retirement acct as I am making at my job now (especially when you factor inflation in).

    I just recently got married and the hubby brought an additional $200k in retirement savings to the table. We’re on the same page when it comes to saving.

  • Mike says:

    I just retired at 58. Wife will probably work several more years although just part-time.

    I have a pension of $7,000 a month that will drop to $5,000 when I start collecting SS of $1750 a month at 62. Wife will collect only about $550 a month in SS due to not working for many years.

    I currently have $500,000 in my IRA and my wife has $20,000 in a 403B. Last year I bounced back from the crash and ended up 36% for the year. As I don’t need to draw much at the present I have left the money 100% in stocks which my financial advisor manages. Besides high dividend stocks like KMR ($4.40 a year) and LINE (9%) he uses a lot of options with puts to protect me on the downside.

    My company gave me the opportunity to buy health insurance for life which I jumped on. Max out of pocket for any year is $1,500 for both of us.

    Overall I feel pretty good about our future although my wife still worries. She would like to see me go real conservative but my point to her is we are covering all of our income needs right now so we can afford to be aggresive.

  • John says:

    I am 52 and have saved $2,140,000. I am independently employed and will not get SS. I will try to work until I can no longer handle it…hopefully into my 70s. I wish we could do away with SS and let people take care of themselves. People have been brainwashed into believing that we cannot buy a house, send our kids to college, or anything without government intervention or redistribution of wealth. I started working at 22, making only $20,000 a year. Today, I earn about $350,000 a year and at present try to save about $120,000 per year after taxes and living expenses. I do not want government’s help and wish that people would learn to live within their means and work hard. I lived in a small apartment until I was in my 30s. After having kids I moved into a modest house. I rent, and I rent below what I can afford. I spend wisely and put my children first, my wife next and myself dead last. Regarding the future of the US, I think we all could learn from the Chinese at this time. Ironic though, they are communists and are acting more like capitalists than we are.

    • martin says:

      Any advice to the great unwashed besides working hard..What business were you in and where do you see the future. You are
      sitting on top..cheers.

    • Jim, Chesapeake, Va says:

      John… You comments are right on the mark. I was glad to hear you rent a modest house. I have always lived below my means and never take a handout. My friends have always put me down because I rent an apartment and never bought a house. They didn’t realize that I took the money I would have expended on maintenance, taxes, and interest to the banks, and invested it… My choices have worked well for me. More people should stop listening to the government, friends, real estate agents, and brokers when it comes to home ownership. Now I’m doing well, and my friends can’t stop getting on my case, because they all think I’m rich… which is their perception… not reality. The only differnce between me and them, is that I have liquidity, and they can’t sell their bathrooms to pay bills.

  • cherion says:

    I am 51 and didn’t start saving until almost age 49. I have managed to put away about $20,000.00 which should be $25,000.00 over 20 years. I have scrimped it together with making certain rules for myself like a $100.00 per month and $5.00 for everyday worked and $2.00 for weekends. I have put any extra money I received into CD’s like $600.00 for stimulus check which actually I turned in $660.00 with buying a King-Soopers gas card, changing homeowners inusrance, any refunds I get like this week I got $153.00 from my escrow account due to lower property taxes, I save all my change and every 6 months goes into savings, I round-up on writing checks which accumulates extra money, I’ve opened up bank accounts that gave me money too, I put any extra money from a bill I thought would be more into savings, All of these tricks have allowed me to save $20,000 in close to 3 years. I am getting out of credit card debt so that will allow extra money in the future to be saved. I hope to have home and student loan paid off by age 70. I will have to wait to 70 to receive SSI so I get more. With about $1,500 SSI, savings and no debt I believe I should make it. Of course I plan to keep going on this for at least 19 more years. I am self-employed so get no company plans. I waited toooooo long. Scrimping though is better than doing nothing and being hopeless. Its great all the young people are saving now good for all of you!

    • Kevin says:

      You are screwed should have saved more, that’s why this econmy is in the shape it is in. It people like you that have caused so much damage.

      • Matt says:

        What a mean comment.

        Cherion is well aware of her situation and is doing her best to rectify it. She took the time to post her story as a warning to others, to help them avoid her mistakes.

        It sounds like she has enough problems without some jackass named Kevin blaming her for the collapse of the economy.

  • James says:

    I’m 25,

    I’ve saved up about 20k in my 401k and about 20k in cash.

    I think my employer matches something like 1/4% on the first 6% (random), but i put in about 10% a year.

    Between me and my significant other (she has about the same as I do) we hope to pass 140k total this year (fun goal!). It would be quite the stretch and would require quite a nice bonus come bonus time but “shoot for the stars” right?

    We’ve recently started budgeting out all our lunches and dinners for the week on sunday (including slow cooker sunday), and have found we’re saving quite a bit more now. Hopefully we can keep it up.

  • Steve says:

    For those who asked about using a financial advisor.

    I work on one of the largest advising teams in the country. We handle personal accounts of individuals with a minimum of $25,000,000. Unfortunately, unless you have at least $100,000 you are going to have trouble finding a good advisor unless you have a family member in the business that can help you. An advisor who takes on accounts of less than $100,000 has to have at least $1,000 accounts to make a decent living. You tell me how 1 person can manage investments for 1,000 different people. It is impossible for them to do a good job. We have a 7 person team working for 40 clients. If you have less than $100,000 my advice is to do some homework and invest in some good mutual funds. Hope this helps.

  • melissa says:

    i am 27 and work at a university so I have a defined benefit plan. Hubby was unemployed for 6 mos last yr and started a new job in July so this July he can start contributing to a 401K and we plan on putting at least the 5% they match(can’t give up free money). after the 6 mos unemployment our emergency fund has $10K in it. I just paid off my car and his will be paid off in a few months. We own a condo and NO CREDIT CARD debt. I think we are doing pretty well since my ex hubby basically took all my money and blew it before our divorce. My goals from here are to max his 401K to the match and then put max in Roth IRAs for both of us. Right now we haven’t been able to dump alot of extras in savings since we have furloughs at my job (6 days and maybe more)

    My hubby is a debt load convert. When we met in 2006 he had 7500 in credit cards, 20K on his car owed and not current on payments. He loves not being stressed about money as much as he was.

  • bum says:

    I’m 46 divorced, unemployed, moved back in with parents, no retirement savings, no usable skill, hang around local college stalking young college girls.

  • Joy says:

    These stats are sad but so true. I am a retirement consultant and that is pretty much my whole job to try and encourage people to save for retirement and help them with investment options etc. It is UNBELIEVEABLE how low of a priority this is for so many people.And it is not always a matter of not being able to afford to save. It drives me insane. The really sad thing is that I meet with people who are even in their 40′s and 50′s who are like “well… I don’t know if I want to do that…” SERIOUSLY? So attempt to pay your mortgage with the pennies that social security will offer you, depend on your children to support you financially or work for the rest of your life. Scary….

  • brian says:

    I’m 26 and currently have about $105k in retirement savings. I max out my yearly 401k and Roth IRA contributions and then funnel extra into mutual funds and CDs. Even with all the savings, I earn enough that I can enjoy traveling a little (which is nice).

    Basically, I want to squirrel as much into savings now before I (eventually) get married and have kids. I’m fairly certain having a family will limit how much I can save. Plus, I’d like to be able to retire early enough to enjoy myself without worrying about finances later in life. I’m also toying with the notion of starting a 529 plan…no kids yet, but I understand you can change the beneficiary pretty easily.

  • cherion says:

    Open an IRA CD yesterday at $6,000.00 which will give me a $296.00 tax refund along with the $400.00 making work pay credit. So of course the tax refund will go into savings along with the $400.00 less in taxes I expected to pay. Buying a little stock on my own to hopefully help boost some retirement savings. Buying stocks low and will plan to sell when they get higher. Scary though with the stock market so not putting alot of money into it.

  • Bryan says:

    23 years old. Just started my first full time job.

    6k in a old 401k. Gonna move it to a Roth IRA. Currently contributing 3% of ~60k salary with 100% employer match and will max out my Roth IRA.

    Really wondering what the people that are in their mid 20′s and making 100k+/year do for a living…

  • Waldo says:

    Bryan: Visit bars every night, eat out or order in, dryclean their clothes, buy high-end cars with loans, and travel overseas multiple times a year, according to one person I know in that situation who lives and spends sanely. (Despite their living in a generally overpriced area, she and her husband already own a house and are paying down the mortgage, to those coworkers’ astonishment.)

  • Drew says:

    Hi. This is a perspective from someone who started at age 33 and is now 57. My wife and I have done okay–now holding about $500K despite suffering through some brutal market downturns. There are several demonstrable reasons why we are where we are and I thought I’d share both good and bad. First, the good: My rule #1 DO NOT BUY MORE HOUSE THAN YOU HAVE TO and its accompanying rule: don’t buy for status (and certainly don’t try to keep up with the Jones’s). I bought a fixer-upper at age 24 in a working class neighborhood close to downtown and the major expressways. Thirty-three years and ( now)close to a $100K household income we are still here. Our taxes are low(er) for the general area ($250 per month) and the house has been paid off for many years. I think too many people get caught up in the equity game and the mortgage never goes away. We have a lot of disposable income because we kept our housing impulses at bay. Rule #2 Pay off credit cards every month. Rule #3: take out a home equity line of credit if you need to fiance something large, like a car or an education. The rates are usually lower. Rule #4: max out your IRA, 401K, etc as your top priority every year, ESPECIALLY if there is employer matching. Rule #5: get into low-fee equities (that’s low sales charges and/or low carrying charges that are part of a major umbrella group (so asset allocation and rebalancing can be done at no additional cost). Rule #6 Avoid any temptation to take the money out once it’s been paid in. Lastly, avoid dangerous, highly speculative investments, whether in real estate, stocks, or commodities. Develop a consistent strategy for your long-term investments and apply it. The only major screw-up for us was to plow a ton of money into a tech startup we knew nothing about. That cost us $40 or $50K. There is no shortage of people whose job it is to get money out of you. Find a good, honest advisor and stick with a moderately conservative long-term growth strategy (much as you’ll want to wring someone’s neck when the markets reverse). Good luck.

  • Abby says:

    Another one fashionably late to the party-

    I’m 23, 2008 grad, $85k salary.

    In my first 2 years working I:
    Paid off $55k student/auto loans
    Put $25k in a company 401k with $9k non-vested match (worth total of $41k now)
    Put $10k into Roth IRA (worth $11k now)
    Put $10k into ING for emergency savings
    Accumulated almost $10k in savings (going be invested once I decide where)
    And lived off of the rest after taxes/SS/Med.

    I learned recently that my parent (both in their 50s) have nowhere near adequate retirement savings. They may even be those elderly Walmart greeters (mentioned above) or moving in with their children some day. Watching them struggle with this (some due to poor planning, and some to a poorly dealt hand outside anyone’s control) has really lit a fire under my ass to make sure I don’t end up in the same situation.

    Coming from a modest college life made it very easy to save- I don’t miss any of the money I’m putting away because I never got used to having it in the first place! I have just continued living within the means I was used to and comfortable with. Actually, I was at a loss for plans when I ran out of debt because paying it was such a no-brainer… now, also maxing pre-tax IRA and Roth limits, I have to do research to come up with other ways to save. I also know that there will be times in my life where I won’t be able to contribute nearly this much, so I wanted to get a jump start.

    Ready? Set? Compound!!

    Thanks to G.E. and all who have commented- I have been learning and laughing all evening!

  • Jason says:

    I am 25 and i have 12k in my 401k. Not bad for someone who only makes 25k a year while going to school full time.

    • Al says:

      That’s a great start. You keep that going thru your working years and you will have a tidy retirement account.

      I didn’t start a retirement account until I was 34. I’m 57 now. During that time in between, I’ve accumulated 400K in 401K, retired and now recieving a nice pension, and the wife even has her own 401 going. I’ not touching my 401 until I’m 60,,,then I’m going to camp in every campground in the U.S. (that’s all I want to do!)

      So it’s NEVER too late to start. Better to start early like you did. Keep it up!

  • David says:

    37-179,000 in 401K, blend of pretax and a Roth 401k. I schedule an automatic 1% annual increase in the Roth 401K. Cannot max out yet since I have 3 kids and a mortgage, etc…. Have college savings accounts for each kid with scheduled monthly deposits into 501c. Additionally have around 60,000 in a cash balance pension.

    I save because I want to enjoy my life after retirement and don’t want to wind up poor and uncared for when I can no longer work. Don’t want to be like one of those fools who blames everyone else because I am broke and can’t afford my medicines, to eat, travel, etc……

  • tumbleweed says:

    37 years old, DH 45
    No debt. Including house, IRAs, 401K, savings, investments, we just topped 1 million. DH has a nice pension (rare, huh?) and tons of unrestricted and restricted stock options. According to the sweet, innocent SS statement we get for our birthdays, we should get $4,000 a month combined.

    We are doing great, but I still feel anxious and know we should be doing better.

  • Financial Bondage says:

    Americans are not prepared for retirement at all. To make matters worse, companies are looking for ways to save money anyway they can. Getting rid of guaranteed health care and retirement are two things they are looking to get rid of. Each individual will be responsible for their own.

  • Sanalika says:

    I’m 23. My husband and I have a combined balance of 170K in our 401K. He is 32.

  • Drew says:

    About to turn 37: Make a little over $200k / year. Currently have a 401k of about $145k, stocks of $16k and about $8K in two 529 plans (3 and 5 year olds). I am now maxing out my 401k and get a 4% match (company skipped matching for the past few years). I have 2 big bonuses and stock grants in the next few years so I hope to push further faster. I also have my first house as a rental (great tax shelter) and while I owe about 107k on it, even in the current market its worth about $240k.

    I really want to be done with work. That is my goal. Well that and opening a microbrewery to make a small fortune out of a large one.

    I was feeling good about my position until I got on this board. =)

  • trvldrmr says:

    47 woman recently divorced with 20k in Trad/Roth IRA’s and 30k in 403b with lousy 1% company match. I make 62k/yr and contribute 10% in 403b and $80 per month in my Roth. I need to do something different but not sure what…

  • Sean Browne says:

    I’m always thinking about how much money I should have when I retire. What my life will look like later down the line. But for right now I’m trying to enjoy what I have to the fullest without putting a dent in my pocket. Especially now these days, almost everything costs an arm and one leg. I am contributing to my savings every month for any emergency, even for a retirement fund. But realistically I don’t think any amount of savings will ever be enough, it just depends on how you manage all your expenses or investments when the time comes.

  • samk says:

    I know what the statistics say about average retirement savings but clearly they must have left a zero or two off of the number. Look at the comments, obviously most people make six figures right out of college with no advanced degree, and are millionaires by the time they are 30.

  • Kyle says:

    I’m 28, make around $40,000 a year in the military. I contribute %8 to a TSP account which is not matched, and I also contribute $350 to a Roth IRA. I have $9,000 in the TSP and $32,000 in the IRA. I will have medical benefits, and be collecting a pension when I retire from the service at the age of 41, hopefully I will be able to find another career and contribute more. It amazes me to see how many of my comrades have no idea, or interest in saving money for the future. I am a little behind but I still believe I have time to catch up and take care of myself. I think more people need to do this, stop relying on everyone else to take care of them and take responsibilty for themselves. I’m impressed after reading all the posts, some of you definatly have it figured out. I guess your dream job pays a little more than mine, congrats to all of you.

  • celmira says:

    I am 58 years old. I have $273,000 in a 401-K; $15,000 in a Roth IRA, $7,000 in an ING Roth IRA and $3,500 in an individual stock account. When I retire, God willing, I will have a company pension of approximately $3,200 and Social Security of $1,400. At present I am contributing $1,000 monthly to the 401-K and earn $81,000 yearly. I would like to work another two years.

  • celmira says:

    I forgot to mention that I used to contribute $2,000 to my 401-K, but after 9/11 here in New York I decided that life is not guaranteed to anyone and therefore, spend some, save some. Of lately, I have gone on a spending spree (clothes, shoes) and I am also getting dental implants that is very expensive. For some reason, I always feel very guilty when I splurge on myself and had not done so for years until this year. In addition, I have a home that is worth about $350,000 with a HEL of $132,000. At the height of the housing market it was worth over $400,000.

    I plan to contribute all my increase in the Spring to the 401-K. We also get a bonus of about $4,000 minus taxes. The company matches 3% when I contribute 6% of my income to the 401-K.

  • Lynn says:

    I am 28 and I have $47,000 saved in my 401k. I have student loan debt however (at various rates up to 6.7%) and want to pay that off. I want to know if I should stop or cut back on saving in my 401k and try to pay off the debt first or should I continue to put in 15%.

    :(

  • Lynn says:

    Oh I make between 60-78k per year

  • JohnG says:

    I am in my 50s. The amount in my IRA and 401k is less than the sum of all I have contributed in the past 30 years. The idea that people will make a 5 – 10% annual return (the assumptions made in all those retirement calculations) is a complete joke.

    The reality is: Every 6 – 12 years all the gains you have made in the interim will be wiped out in a crash.

  • Matt says:

    I am 26 and in the military. I am one year from getting out and trying to find a job in the “real world”. I am also one year from completing my MBA. Up until about 2 and a half years ago I was much like most americans and didnt even think about savings. I bought expensive cars on high interest loans, all types of other senseless toys, and didnt save a dime, racking up about 27K in debt, very much living in the now. Then I met a practical girl, and started to think past right now and realized I was being an idiot. So I changed.

    I currently make about 65K and have no debt, including no college loans. Me and my fiance (she makes about 50K) have made it a point to save aggressively for retirement. I got out of debt last year in January and since then I have built a pretty complex system of budgeting, saving, and investing.

    My goal was to have 50K by Dec and we exceeded that by 4k. We will have just over 60k by the end of this month, we are saving about $5500 a month. My goal for next december is 115K, that will be tough though with a wedding in the middle. Going to need some great gains in the market ot get there too.

    First we saved 20K as an emergency fund, then maxed out IRAs, and invested in some balanced mutual funds as a short term investment towards a house in 2 years.

    It definately has been an experience learning how to save, and I still feel very behind, especially after reading some of these posts but I hope that by living well below our means for at least the next five years we will make up much of the lost time. I hope to have over 350k by 30. Wish me luck and good luck to each of you on your retirement quests!

    • Andrew says:

      Matt- Some of the posts above are “keeping up with the Joneses”, except reversed into a race of high income and saving. Based on your post, you’re doing great in setting up a financially comfortable and independent future.

  • Steve 52 says:

    Matt- Congratulations! You will have a lot of life “options” when you are my age 52. You are obviously very bright.

  • casey says:

    I’m 25.. almost 26.
    ~$8k in employer cash pension
    ~$10k roth ira
    ~$26k 401

    Single, no kids, etc…

  • casey says:

    Lynn- as far as paying off your debt or contributing more to savings, you should ask yourself if you think you’re going to earn more than 6.7% on your savings… or close to it. If you want a sure ‘return’ than I would pay off the debt. Once you pay that off, then just start funelling the money to your savings.

  • Jason says:

    45 – late starter due to raising a family and getting married too early and paying for college myself as an adult. Still, I have about $350K total saved. No credit card debt, but do have a $250/mo car payment and a typical suburban mortgage. Frugal, but could do better. My advice to the younger crowd is save something every paycheck, and do not even consider inheritance, home value or social security as your safety net. The first two can disappear in a flash, and we all pretty much anticipate social security to disappear within a few decades.

  • thesandmane says:

    There are many tough decisions in life, and many that are easy. The cliche one step forward and two steps back seems to accurately describe my retirement savings attempt. At 45 years of age, single parent, I’ve expeienced the large corporation staff reductions numberous times, and have to make the decision, do I want to feed the family, or throw some $$ into the 401k, after a considerable amount of time unemployed and savings depleted, that 401k is the only way your paying for food, gas, utilities, etc. With the 401k gone and another attempt at rebuilding my financial future, the current salary barely covers the basics. (I am very frugal) There is nothing more unrealistic that attempting to save when you are living paycheck to paycheck. I welcome any realistic and constructive pieces of advice.

  • jeff says:

    39 years old, $305,000 saved for retirement. Have saved since I was 25. Self employed and continue to put about $3200/month away into Simple IRA’s, Roth IRA’s and an HSA for me and my wife. Should have about $6,000,000 – $7,000,000 saved by 65. Keep plugging away.

  • RR says:

    Encouraging to see the 20 somethings on here who get it. My dad had a long talk with me when I was picking my first job out of engineering school. Taught me to look past salary and look at total compensation – insurance cost/coverage, 401k contributions of the company and the individual and pension worth. I picked my employer based on that. Insurance for the company was a B+, there were better. But my 401K and pension made the deal. After 9 years I get 10% from my employer with no matching. I give another 10-15%. After doing this for over 30 years I have gotten my savings up to around $2,300,000. I make $250,000 now. I also have a pension that is worth about 55% of my last years salary if I work till I am 59. I know I am blessed and not many companies have this package, but you can do well with other packages as well. Live within your means, save 15-20% a year, buy a stretch house at 30 and stay put. Having college for your kids covered is an awesome feeling and having enough for retirement, but you need to start with that first job!!!

  • Missy says:

    My husband and I are 32 and expecting our 2nd child. Between IRAs and 401Ks we have $160,000. We’ve saved up $35,000 in liquid cash, and are hoping to increase that to $40,000 before I leave the work place for a few years – child care is expensive, and I’ve hit the 10 years out of college mark where time is becoming more valuable than money. In my time off, I don’t want the nest egg to go too far under $25,000 (6 months of bills & food) – so I’ll use that as a gage on how much time I can afford – thinking 1 – 3 years.) We can live a slightly decreased lifestyle on my husband’s income comfortably (camping instead of international travel / less dining out) – only consumer debt we have is our mortgage, and our cars are newish and in good condition to last several more years (I’m hoping 5 – they are a 2007 and 2008).

    We hope to achieve 2 – 2.5 million by age 65. When I return to the work place, we’ll focus on our investments more and increase our savings from about 8 – 10% to proably 20% I think. I’ll probably also start doubling up on the mortgage to pay it off early (owe $275,000) on a home we purchased in 2009 – currently valued a little over $300,000, but it was close to $400,000 before the housing market crashed in 2008.

    How much should I convert to a Roth IRA? We haven’t done this yet, but think it’s a smart idea.

  • Jim says:

    I am 62 and have maxed out my 401k for 3 decades + “catch up” contributions since age 50. Of course, it was hit hard in the 2000-2001 downturn.

    About 7 years ago, I pulled all of my 401k funds out of equities and put them in a “Capital Preservation” account that earns about 3-4% a year.

    My logic is this: Over the past 7 years, my holdings are up a total of around 22%. Factor in the market downturns, lost capital and even with strong gains these past two years, stocks are under performing a steady, slow gain in bonds and cash.

    I have more than 1,000,000 in the 401k, about $250,000 in other pre-tax accounts and $150,000 in various individual stocks and mutual funds. We have around $175,000 in post-tax savings for college for our three children (2 in college, 1 in high school) and emergencies. The house was paid off 2-3 years ago. We have Zero credit card debt due to salary income.

    This year, we bought a condo at the University where my oldest daughter is a junior. A 2-bdr/2 1/2 bath modest unit, it is the closest housing to campus. We paid cash. The bank where I have done business for 30 years offered me an 11.9% home equity line to pay for it…my credit is excellent but bank didn’t want a short-term loan on the books. I didn’t even bother negotiating and borrowed what extra was needed from my 401k to be paid back in 2 years. Best investment I’ve made in years. I’m looking to buy a second unit but they rarely come on the market in this small, tidy complex.

    We’re holding on to our over-sized house until the housing market recovers, then we’ll consider moving to something smaller. We’re actively looking for a retirement/income property right now, but I’m hesitant to take on a $300k mortgage given my age and uncertain employment future. They just had a round of layoffs at work and, of course, most of those hit were over the age of 55, earning higher salaries.

    My wife wants to consider buying something out of state, but I think owning a rental property hundreds of miles away is impractical, and risky.

    I intend to work part-time in retirement beginning in a couple years. I’ve done the math. Even with all of our savings, it’s not going to be a “care free” retirement. We’ll have to watch the budget and be prepared to help out our 3 children.

    Thank goodness I got married late — to a woman who has two degrees in accounting! ;-)

  • Michelle says:

    I’m 19 and just started saving. I don’t have a lot, but hopefully after reading through this, researching everything I need to know, and figuring out all the right things to do with my retirement money, I’ll be well off when I’m old, married and retired.

  • Sheila says:

    Just wintering if the conversation has continued?

  • Gary says:

    I am currently 55 and still saving like mad , to retire at 60.
    I have lived a fairly frugal lifestyle and have a little over 1 million for retirement. The key is to live within your means and not spend money trying to keep up with the Jones. Time to do what you want in life, is more important than having the latest car or biggest house on the block. My advice, is to get a good education, and put away as much money as you can each year. For you never know when you will truly need the security of savings for layoffs, medical issues or other unexpected expenses.

  • Ryan says:

    I’m 21, in the military. I have about 2,000 in a Roth IRA. then 10,000 between a mutual fund account and stocks. i strive to save 70% of my income while i can. i hope to have 100,000 by the time i get out of the military.

    • Ron says:

      Ryan, You are off to a great start. Continue to invest in a low cost Stock Index fund (Vanguard, Fidelity, T Rowe) and by the time you retire at 42 years old you will be able to live comfortably for the rest of your life (like me). Now just watch your back for the next 20 years, and don’t take any unnecessary risks with your health. Thanks for your service.

      • Ryan says:

        Well, I highly doubt ill do 20 years in the service. I plan on getting my A n P License so I can work on Civilian Air liners. Its a good job for now. I make good money for not having a bachelors degree. I am scheduled to leave the service in two years from now, almost to the day. I haven’t decided if I want to extend or re-enlist.

        I invest through vanguard. By the and of this year, If all goes as planned I should hit my goal of 25K. I just struggle with where to put my money. Any advice? I don’t mean stock choices, I mean should I hire a broker? I know very little about the market.

        I think I worry more about money than anyone I know.

        • Ron says:

          Ryan, Forget the brokers, they are in business for themselves not you. Do your own homework. If you are already with Vanguard stay with them, it’s a good company. There is little advantage to individual stocks, but if you have to, as another poster said, stick with those that pay dividends Walmart, Verizon, Etc.. again do your homework.. Long term what will make you money are benchmark index mutual funds. Your asset allocation is the part you should be concentrating on not which individual funds. Get comfortable with (for your age) 80%-90% in (Equity) S&P500 Index or Total Stock Market Index and 10%-20% in (Bond) Total Bond Fund, all found at Vanguard. Find the funds that cost you least which will allow more of your money to work for you, that’s the bottom line. Use automatic draft to pay yourself first and you won’t even miss the money after a while. You will be amazed at how fast your money will compound. Best of luck to you.

  • Gary says:

    Hi Ryan, You are doing well for your age. Keep investing in 401K, Roth IRA, and look at dividend paying stocks. If you take some money and invest in a IRA thru. Fidelity, you can use all of their tools, which are really good at helping you plan for retirement, and make wise investment choices. You need about 100K for a CFP to look at and manage your investments for free. Until then, I would use the free tools provided by Fidelity or Etrade.

    • Jeff Walden says:

      “You need about 100K for a CFP to look at and manage your investments for free.”

      …wait, something smells funny here. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. How does this make sense as a service to investors? I’ve never heard of a free CFP. That might be me assuming something can’t exist and therefore not looking around to see that it does exist, of course. Where are these free CFPs? Can you point out a few online or something?

      (And if I’m pulling out cliches, “You get what you pay for” also comes to mind.)

      • Ron says:

        This was copied from the Vanguard site. Maybe this was what the poster was referring to.

        Voyager Services can help you manage your growing investing needs so you can work toward your goals with confidence.

        Investors with $50,000 to $500,000 in Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs

        * Commission-free Vanguard ETF® trades and reduced commissions for stocks and non-Vanguard ETFs. No account service fees.*
        * A detailed financial plan at a discount. A Certified Financial Planner™ professional from Vanguard will analyze your investments and saving strategy.

        Voyager Select Services®

        Voyager Select Services offers special savings and sound advice to help you plan for continued success.

        Investors with $500,000 to $1 million in Vanguard mutual funds and ETFs

        * Sophisticated support from representatives who can answer your more complex investment questions.
        * Commission-free Vanguard ETF trades and additional reductions on brokerage costs. No account service fees.*
        * “Ask a CFP® professional” program for guidance on particular financial issues as they arise. For long-range planning, a complimentary financial plan by a CFP professional that analyzes your investments and saving strategy.

      • Gary says:

        When you have a significant amount of assets in your portfolio you can get more investment services provided without charge. Most CFP’s charge an upfront fee. If you meet liquid net asset requirements some organizations waive fees. I pay nothing for consultations with CFP, Of course some of the products that CFP recommends have some sort of commission structure, which is how the CFP gets paid. You have the ability to choose what products fit best for your financial goals. You get reviews of your portfolio and consultations quarterly included.

  • Justin says:

    I’m 23 and have had a full time job since August of 2010. Currently I have 19k in my 401k and I just purchased a home with my fiancee. I have contributed 15% of my salary since the day I was hired and I get 5% matched on top of that. I hope to have 100k by 30!

  • Erin says:

    I feel so effing behind after reading the comments. I am 25 almost 26 I have $1200 in my 401k 4% full match I make about 27000/yr and about 50k in student loans. My mother is 53 and has no savings what so ever, has worked only intermittently throughout her life and has no job and only expects about $550/mo in SS and my real goal is to end up nothing like her. But obv. I am a long way away from that. really discouraged at this point but I know what I need to do. The idea of getting married within the next year or so and buying a house it doesn’t look good. Utterly Terrified of the future.

    • Ryan says:

      Erin, It is better to have realized where you stand now then it is later. You are only 25. You are in your mid 20′s. Now is the time to start planning for your future. Don’t get to upset. You still have an adequate time frame to save money. You are late but in no way are you out of the game. Budget, Save, Invest. Stay away from unnecessary debt. You can do it, best of luck!

  • Jeff says:

    I am 54 and have busted my but for 30 years and am beginning to suffer from burnout as a trial attorney. I have 3m in stocks/savings and 1m in retirement. Also have 2m in real estate. Problem is I have 4 kids and paying for their college and grad schools. am I too young to quit now or do I suck it up and keep burning the candle till I am 65? Would be nice to chill at beach but my work ethic will make me feel guilty.

    • the other jim says:

      jeff,
      i hear you – i too am a burned out trial attorney – 54 – and i don’t have near the millions set aside as you do. you’re a multi-millionaire. the kids’ college/grad school can’t be that much – percentage-wise. set aside whatever you feel you want to contribute to their education and then let them be responsible for anything over that amount. then go to a 4 day work week – yes, even trial attorneys can do that. i did a few years ago and it has kept me sane. if i hadn’t reduced my hours i would’ve quit by now.

    • Ryan says:

      Hey Jeff,

      I have no where near the financial sum that you have massed. Nor do I have the experience as a father. But as a 21 year old male who has a great father i can tell you this.

      Your children shouldn’t expect the world from you. This is your life. Do not live it entirely for your kids. I would explore other options and sit your kids down and talk to them about maybe going to cheaper schools, receiving grants, etc etc. They don’t need to take on the world alone, however they don’t need you to fight their financial battles either.

      If I were you I would sit them down and explain that you will only give them XXX amount of dollars for their education. That after this they will be on their own. They must learn to make it at least somewhat on their own. This will shape them into more professional beings and adults.

      My dad makes roughly 150k a year. He paid my sisters education out of pocket but I didn’t want that. I joined the Air Force. I go to school part/full time when I can and I have saved nearly 20k so far. It has made me stronger and more aware of who i am and what i can be. Now I get out in 6 months and will be going to school full time. Im a little less than 3 years away from my degree. But this was my choice.

      This is your money, your life. You earned it. You accomplished it. Let them earn at least a part of there education.

      • thuybiegbo says:

        I agree with you Ryan. Growing up I’ve always had that kind of mentaility. While it is nice to have your parents take care of you,to have that kind of support, it’s even better to accomplish it yourself and take pride in the fact that YOU DID IT!

      • jim says:

        Ryan,
        I am absolutely LOVING what you are saying. Mind talking to my son, also named Ryan, to give him a good quick kick in the pants? Swear to God we have busted our asses for him and he has accomplished a lot – but – he came back home after college (allegedly to save $ for higher education) and near as I can tell, all he’s done is piss it away.

        I don’t want to break his spirit – but I do so want to kick his ass into gear. I’m at a loss – yes – 30 plus years of being a parent and I’ve never encountered this before – ever. So I’m between “mommy-ing” him and kicking his ass to the curb. Suggestions? Thanks.

        • thuybiegbo says:

          It’s a toughie. I’m not a parent yet so I don’t want to dish out advice as if I knew it all. But from my own experience with a 13 years younger-brother, you cut the chord and they will slowly learn how to walk on their own. It’s start with him asking question to understand more, and then you start to see him taking initiative. It’s tough love, but in the long run I do believe he will thank me for it. It’s a lesson everyone has to learn at some point in their life. It’s better to do it sooner than later.

  • A P says:

    The problem isn’t just the desire to save. I started what I call my good job a little under 2 years ago. Until then I made under $20K with a bachelor’s degree and had no 401K option. I was saving 10% of my meager earnings and trying to build an emergency fund and pay off student loans.

    With the meager amount I was making working full time and the low interest rate on savings accounts I was actually losing money (curse you inflation)! I still look on these under paying years as lost time. I knew I wanted to start saving for retirement but with low/no job it wasn’t a real option. I know there are others out there who were unable to get started with careers or retirement savings because of financial hardship.

    Now making twice as much I still have the same problem. Even though I save a good chunk of my income and have invested in a 401K (no match-drat) I’m still struggling to beat inflation.

    I’m losing ground on the treadmill here!

    • Gary Haddan says:

      A.P.
      You have plenty of time to amass a good sum of money!
      Look into opening up a Roth IRA. Invest a good chunk of savings into this vehicle. Tax free funds upon retirement is a good thing!
      Also, examine all of your investment options in 401K. Look to invest in ETF’s that pay dividends. They have very little charges and can pay 5% return or better. If you feel like branching out look at AAA rated stocks which pay dividends, re-invest your dividends and watch your portfolio gains increase year after year.

  • Robo says:

    Is it just me or do a lot of these salaries/savings sound a bit high (near or above 100K)?? They are very high up on the federal pay schedule (useful general comparison). It’s possible those posting are doctors, lawyers, or hedge-fund managers, etc.

    If so, then the posts are not at all representative of 20somethings.

    Just some thoughts from a 16-year old making $650,000/month…. (sarcasm)

    • Ryan says:

      Maybe but I just turned 22 this month and Ive successfully saved just under 25k. I started my Roth IRA last year and maxed it out. I plan to do the same this year and so on.

      I only net 24k a year on taxed income. However through certain (Military)benefits my real income is about 38k a year.

      Plus twenty somethings do grow older… I wish I would have started saving at 16. My God I wasted so much time and money. I hope you do not.

    • Lil says:

      Robo- I was thinking the same thing. I was starting to feel very sorry for myself and underpaid.

      I have $168K in my 401K and $2K in a Roth 401 something or other.

      I’m 41 and divorced with 2 kids. I make 56K/year at my full-time job. I work a part-time weekend job plus do mystery shopping in my free time. My ex quit his job so they couldn’t garnish his wages and owes over $25K in child support. He gets over $700 per month in food stamps even though he only has the kids a couple of days per month. I don’t get it. He eats steak. We eat mac and cheese and ramen noodles. It is like the college life again, only with 2 extra people to feed and clothe!

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