How can I figure out if I'm saving enough in my 401k? - Nerdwallet

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How can I figure out if I'm saving enough in my 401k?

February 8, 2013

Advisor answers

I’d like to tweak this question a little to, “How can I figure out if I’m saving enough for retirement?”

One general rule of thumb is 15 to 20% of your income should go towards retirement. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone. Maybe you have irregular income or you’re playing catch up because you’re getting closer to retirement.

The quick answer to the 401(k) question is to max it out every year. Not all of us can afford to do that and have enough money left over to live. If that is the case, be sure to automatically put som...

Jonathan DeYoe

Jonathan DeYoe


There are 5 pieces of information that are absolutely required to answer the question, "Am I saving enough?" You need to know 1. How much you have saved; 2. When will you start withdrawing; 3. How much you will spend in your 1st year of retirement; 4. How much you will receive from Social Security and Pensions; and 5. For how long will you require a retirement income. And, this 5th item being a total unknown, you will need to plan for a VERY long time.

Then, of course, you will also need to project a couple more things that are compl...

Bonnie Sewell

Bonnie Sewell


No way to know without looking at your total situation but I think you may be asking how much you should save in a 401k? To read some fairly scary research on 'saving enough' check out this blog - // and his thoughts on how much to save. It is so much more than people realize. And without tying it even to retirement, let's think about having the freedom of choices if you really save hard and early (starting a business, investing, etc.)

So are you saving enough? Probably not (we have very good resear...

Like most financial questions there is not an easy applicable rule of thumb to apply. In general it’s save as much as you can, but in reality there are usually more things to consider. Among them are:

How would more savings affect your budget? I always recommend saving as much as you can within reason. What I mean by that is save a significant amount that fits your income well but do not sacrifice your complete happiness for your current savings. Do not eat a bowl of plain white rice every night so you can put an...

Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy


As noted in prior posts, there are a lot of things that go into determining "how much to save", but it invariably boils down to something similar to the following:

Shoot for 20% of your pre-tax income - if you can do that without withdrawing early, you should be fine going into retirement. That 20% can be a combination of funds you set aside through a 401(k) plan, or private savings.

If you can't do this amount, then get as close to it as possible.

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