Insurance Personal Finance Retirement Planning

Set It And Don’t Forget It: Calculating Your Retirement Savings Goal

41 total views

Saving enough money to retire is a goal that nearly everyone shares (and those who don’t, maybe it’s time that changes). Also shared by most is the uncertainty of how much “enough” truly is.

I’ll say right now that determining the hard figure needed to retire comfortably is not a difficult calculation, but it’s also a moving target. You can calculate it today, tomorrow, and next Wednesday and get three different answers, and each of them will be wrong.

So, what do you need to know about determining your retirement nest egg needs?

It’s a simple time value of money problem (sort of).

If you know how much money you need each year to live comfortably, you can start your calculation. The dollar amount will be a multiple of that number, allowing you to withdraw that amount each year while staying below a 4% withdrawal rate.

However, because of inflation and other factors, the amount you need to live on today will not be the same when you reach your target retirement age—even if it’s only a few years away. You need to calculate what that dollar amount while factoring in some assumptions, including inflation, cost of living, investment returns, future changes in income and others.

And I can almost guarantee that whichever numbers you use and whatever the outcome is, it will be wrong.

Is it a waste of time?

The number is not going to be accurate, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the calculation. It’s impossible to predict how inflation will act, what the cost of living will be down the road and how markets will grow throughout your lifetime. If you could predict that, you’d be very, very rich.

What you do know right now (or, at least, you can rather easily figure out) is how much money you need to make each year to live comfortably. Your retirement savings goal will be a multiple of that number, such that you can withdraw 3 or 4% each year without depleting the account.

What I recommend you do is look at that number regularly—once a year is ideal—so you can continue to adjust your savings target accordingly.

The number is frightening.

That’s normal. It’s going to be a large number, because it will be your annual expenses multiplied several times. Don’t be intimidated by it.

If you’re staying at a 4% withdrawal rate in retirement, which I would say is the maximum you should plan for, you will need $1 million for every $40,000 of annual expenses. As time goes on and costs go up, $1 million is going to seem like less and less money.

If you recheck these numbers annually, the growth will seem less severe than if you check it now and only return to it in another 10 years.

The lesson:

It is impossible to know how much money you need for retirement but having an idea of a target number will make it feel more manageable and help keep you on track.

Run the calculations each year or so, and don’t be afraid to bring in a professional to help guide you towards your goal.

Share this Post

About Us

What started as a mission to share what's happening in the insurance world today has grown into your daily go-to for insurance, financial planning, and retirement planning news.