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Retirement savings by age: How much should you have?

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No matter your age, planning for your future retirement may seem like a long and complex journey. In fact, Thrivent’s Retirement Readiness Survey* found that only 40% of Americans have ‘very much’ or ‘somewhat’ been able to achieve the retirement planning goals they have set for themselves.

However, there are time-tested ways to build a strong retirement plan that works with your life now, and tomorrow. The same survey found that adults who have a strong retirement plan are four times more likely to achieve some or all of their goals than those who did minimal planning.

Knowing how much to save for the retirement you envision is a foundational piece of achieving your retirement goals. Each decade of your working life serves as a guide to navigating the nuances of creating a strong retirement plan. We'll explore retirement planning in:

How much should you have saved for retirement by your 30s?

A good rule of thumb is to have one year's salary invested in a retirement account by the time you reach your 30s.

At this age, you may wonder if you need to start saving at all at this point. As a 30-something, time is on your side, and you have ample opportunity to save and get ahead.

Tips for saving in your 30s

  • At a minimum, start saving what you can in your employer-sponsored retirement plan (at least up to the employer match, if applicable) or individual retirement account (IRA). Because of compounding returns, each dollar you invest early in your career is potentially worth more than a dollar you invest years down the line.
  • Create a budget to find more ways to save. Sticking to a budget doesn’t have to mean slashing all discretionary, nonessential spending. It’s simply about having visibility into your spending behavior so you can see where your money is going and uncover opportunities to cut non-value-add expenses.
  • Put a plan into place to pay down your high-interest debt so you can increase your retirement contributions over time.
  • Plan for the “what ifs” and establish an emergency fund to help protect your savings from unforeseen events.

Get more tips by reading our in-depth guide on retirement planning in your 30s

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How much should you have saved for retirement by 40?

The general rule is to have three times your annual salary invested by the time you reach age 40.

Many people in their 40s must balance competing financial priorities like paying off student loans, saving for their children's college education and supporting aging parents. Even if you have a lot going on, if you feel behind there are actionable strategies to help you get on track.

Tips for saving in your 40s

  • At this stage of life, start to plot out what you envision your retirement to look like. It will help you target an even more customized savings goal.
  • Continue saving as much as you can in your retirement account. Then try to increase your contributions each year, even if it's only by 1% to 2%, to get you closer to your goal.
  • Work tax efficiency into your financial plan. Consider contributing to a Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA, especially if you think your earnings will continue to grow later in your career. You’ll contribute post-tax money to these accounts, so you don’t have an additional tax liability down the road.
  •  Make a serious plan to get out of credit card or student loan debt. And, as you pay off these debts, consider allocating that same monthly amount to your workplace plan or an IRA.

Get more guidance on retirement planning in your 40s

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How much should you have saved for retirement by 50?

By your 50s, the general rule is to have six times your annual salary saved in a retirement account.

Your 50s are a great time to become proactive about your retirement planning. As you crunch your numbers, be cognizant of healthcare expenses and other risk factors that can jeopardize a retirement budget.

Tips for saving in your 50s

  • Start focusing on what you plan to do in retirement, which helps make it easier to identify your future income needs.
  • Anticipate what Social Security may provide for income so you can work that in your plan.
  • Take advantage of “catch up” contributions, which lets individuals 50 and over contribute an extra money into a workplace plan and IRAs.
  • Consider the tax impact of your retirement accounts. Having tax diversified “tax now”, “tax later” and “tax never” accounts help reduce your tax impact when you retire.

Check out our full guide on retirement planning in your 50s

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How much should you have saved for retirement by 60?

In general, having eight times your annual income invested in a retirement account is a strong position to be in when you enter your 60s. The goal is to use the rest of the time to meet your unique retirement savings goal before retirement.

As you get closer to retirement, review your Social Security and other sources of fixed income and determine how much you’ll need to draw on retirement savings each year.

Tips for savings in your 60s

  • If you’re short of your savings goals, don’t stress. You may consider delaying your retirement, taking on part-time work after you leave your full-time job or modifying your planned lifestyle.
  • Review and adjust your investment strategy so that it is optimized for near-term liquidity as you begin making withdrawals. You generally want to shift toward more conservative assets as you get older, although too big a swing may not provide the growth you’ll need for a longer retirement.
  • Plan for the risks to your retirement savings. Tax implications, carrying large debts and health events could potentially eat away at your savings without a solid plan.
  • Take advantage of catch-up contributions. They are a fantastic way for people 50 and older to catch-up on their goals.

Click here for an in-depth guide on retirement planning in your 60s

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Smart saving at any age

Whether it’s decades away or just around the corner, retirement is an exciting opportunity for you and your loved ones. By dreaming big and focusing on your readiness at every stage of your adult life, you’ll be better prepared to save what you’ll need to achieve your goals.

It’s OK if your savings aren’t exactly what you hoped they’d be, you always can adjust and find ways to save more effectively. Connecting with a financial advisor can help you discover more optimal strategies to prepare for the retirement you envision.

*Methodology: This research was conducted in June 2022 among a national sample of 1,500 adults in order to measure their sentiments, financial planning, knowledge, and issues regarding retirement. The interviews were conducted online and the data was broken into three sample groups; Saving, Nearing, and Retired. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Thrivent financial advisors and professionals have general knowledge of the Social Security tenets. For complete details on your situation, contact the Social Security Administration.

Thrivent and its financial advisors and professionals do not provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional.