Summary: The above average 50 year old who cares about their retirement should have at least $500,000 in their 401k and closer to $1,200,000 if you’ve been very diligent and on the luckier side. After all, the above average 50 year old has been able to save and invest for at least 25 years in the greatest bull market of all time.
The 401k is one of the most woefully light retirement instruments ever invented. Give me a pension that pays 70% of my last year’s salary for the rest of my life over a 401k or IRA any time! At least with the 401k, anybody can contribute.
The average 401k balance as of March 2019 is around $120,000 according to Fidelity’s 12 million accounts, thanks to an incredible rise in the S&P 500 since 2009. We’re at new record highs and the S&P 500 is now up 200%+ since the depths of the financial crisis.
Even so, $120,000 is an incredibly low amount given the median age of an American is 36.5. Further, the median 401k amount is closer to only $28,000. As an educated reader who is logical and believes saving for retirement is a must, I’ve proposed a table that shows how much each person should have saved in their 401k’s at age 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, and 65.
We stop at 65 because you are allowed to start withdrawing penalty free from your 401k at age 59 1/2. Meanwhile, I pray to goodness you don’t have to work much past 65 because you’ve had 40 years to save and investment already!
How Much You Should Have Saved In Your 401k By Age
The assumptions for the below chart are as follows:
* The Low End column accounts for lower maximum contribution amounts available to savers above 45.
* The Mid End column accounts for lower maximum contribution amounts available to savers below 45.
* The High End column accounts for savers who are under the age of 25. After the first year, one maximizes their contribution every year to their 401k plan without failure.
* Average starting working age is 22. But you can follow the number of years working as a different guideline if you graduate later or earlier.
* $18,000 is used as the conservative base case maximum contribution amount for one’s entire working life. Hopefully the government will increase the max contribution amount over time.
* No after tax income contribution, although more power to you if you have the disposable income to do so.
* The rate of return assumptions are between 0% – 10%.
* Company match assumption is between 0% – 3%.
* The Low, Mid, and High columns should successfully encapsulate about 80% of all 401K contributors who max out their contributions each year. There will be those with less, and those which much, MUCH greater balances thanks to higher returns.
* You are logical and not a knucklehead. Just by searching this topic, you are taking ownership of your retirement and are thinking ahead with an action plan.
Financial Samurai 401k Savings Guideline
From the results, the average 50 year old should have between $500,000 – $2,000,000 saved up in their 401k, depending on company match, investment performance, and when contributions started.
If you’re looking for a realistic goal, then focus on the Middle column all down the chart.
We know that due to inflation, a dollar today will not go as far as a dollar 30+ years from now. Private school tuition will probably cost over $100,000 a year in 20 years versus $25,000 for public university tuition and $40,000 for private university tuition on average today.
So who knows what medical, food, shelter and energy costs will cost then. One thing is for sure, prices will be much higher.
Save Early And Often
Contribute the maximum pre-tax income you can to your 401k for as long as you work. This is the absolute MINIMUM you can do to help ensure a comfortable retirement. After you have contributed a maximum to your 401k every year, try and contribute at least 20% of your after-tax income after 401k contribution to your savings or retirement portfolio accounts.
This way, you will have potentially DOUBLE the amount in total retirement saving if your household income is $100,000 or more. If your household income is closer to $50,000, you should still see a nice 30% boost to your retirement savings if you consistently save 20% of your after tax income.
Challenge yourself to raise your after-tax and 401k contribution savings percent to possibly 50%. It won’t be easy, but if you practice raising your savings rate by 1% a month until it hurts, you’ll find it easier than you think.
As a 50 year old, you’ve only got 9.5 years left until you can withdraw from your 401k penalty free. Make your contributions count! Also, make sure you have a proper asset allocation of stocks and bonds that is more conservative. Too many people were too aggressive investing in stocks right before the financial crisis hit in 2009. As a result, not only did many lose 50% in their investments, they also had to work for years to come.
Recommendation To Build Wealth
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