Many Americans are entering retirement with very little stashed away.
There are a variety of decent retirement savings benchmarks out there. How much other people your age have saved isn’t necessarily one of them.
After all, age is just one factor in how much you should have saved for retirement, and it assumes you and everyone else who hit their Sweet 16 in 1999 will also retire at the same time.
Even so, it’s natural to wonder how much Joe around the corner has in his IRA, or whether Betsy in the marketing department is maxing out her 401(k). Average retirement savings balances by age give that itch a slight scratch. They’re not rules of thumb, or even savings guidance. But they are an interesting peek under a curtain that is typically drawn closed.
How much each age has saved for retirement
You won’t be surprised to learn that retirement savings balances tend to increase with age, as they should — the closer you are to retirement, the more you should have stashed away.
A couple of bits of fine print upfront: Because averages can be heavily skewed by outliers — in other words, the savings over- and underachievers in each group — we’ve also included median balances. And it’s worth noting that both figures include only those who have retirement holdings; as the data below show, there are many people of all ages who do not.
Average household retirement savings: $32,500
Median household retirement savings: $12,300
Let’s start with millennials; they’re used to being under the microscope. According to the most recent Survey of Consumer Finances in 2016, 42% of families headed by someone under age 35 have retirement accounts — meant here to include IRAs, Keoghs or defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s. (A Keogh is a retirement account for the self-employed.)
Of the families in this age group who have retirement holdings, the average value of those holdings is $32,500, and the median value is $12,300.
Ages 35 to 44
Average household retirement savings: $100,100
Median household retirement savings: $37,000
This age range encompasses the oldest millennials and the youngest of Generation X. More than half (57%) of households headed by someone of this age have retirement holdings, according to the SCF data.
The average and median values of this group’s retirement holdings are higher than those of the under-35 set. These are strong earning years alongside peak spending years. Particularly for those who have kids, dollars may be stretched around paying for child care, saving for college and saving for retirement.
Ages 45 to 54
Average household retirement savings: $215,800
Median household retirement savings: $82,600
This group is still part of Generation X, with the oldest members about a decade from what’s considered the standard retirement age. About 60% of households headed by someone this age have retirement holdings, according to the SCF.
These can be peak earning years, especially for men, who see earnings growth until age 48, according to compensation research firm PayScale. The company’s research shows women top out much earlier, at 39.
Ages 55 to 64
Average household retirement savings: $374,000
Median household retirement savings: $120,000
These are baby boomers, and the oldest among them are knocking on retirement’s door — just a couple of short years from Social Security’s definition of full retirement age.
Ages 65 to 74
Average household retirement savings: $358,400
Median household retirement savings: $126,000
The bulk of these households are headed by someone who is in retirement, or at least of retirement age. As a result, many are at the stage where they are probably spending, rather than accumulating, savings.
The numbers at least partially bear that out: The average retirement savings for this group is lower than for the 55-to-64 group, at $358,400, though the median is slightly higher than that of the younger group, at $126,000. About half of this age group has retirement accounts, according to the SCF.
» Reality check: Here's what an average retirement costs
After this point, average and median retirement account values begin to fall, as does the percentage of people who have retirement accounts. For households headed by someone age 75 or older, the median value of retirement holdings is $120,000, with an average holding of $336,500.
What do these numbers tell you?
The headline here: Most people aren’t saving enough for retirement and are entering retirement with very little stashed away.
If you use these numbers as your guiding star, you’ll likely be in the same state as most of the country: unprepared for retirement.
That’s just one reason why the average retirement savings for someone your age isn’t a benchmark. If you use these numbers as your guiding star, you’ll likely be in the same state as most of the country: unprepared for retirement.
How much you should have saved, and how much you should be saving, have nothing to do with where others your age stand. They have everything to do with your income, planned retirement spending, expected retirement age and life expectancy.
If you’re looking to turn those factors into a retirement savings goal, a retirement calculator can help. And if that calculator tells you you’re behind? An IRA is a good place to start catching up.
» Boost your retirement savings: How to open an IRA