Article | 2:55 min read

Save early, often for retirement

Life Events

A couple sitting on the couch discussing retirement options

The early bird catches the worm, but what about the early retirement saver? In most cases, Americans can live comfortably during their post-retirement life if they have a plan and start saving as early as possible for retirement.

But many of those who haven't started saving at an early age believe they will work longer to make up the difference, according to a new study from the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates.

That's not necessarily the smartest move.

The study, which polled more than 1,000 Americans workers and more than 1,000 retirees, found 28 percent of workers have less than $1,000 in retirement savings and investments. However, that $1,000 does not include benefit plans such as a traditional pension or their primary residence.

"People keep saying, 'I'm not saving so I'll plan on retiring much later,' but often times for reasons they can't control, people are not able to retire as late as they want," Jack VanDerhei, EBRI's research director, told USA Today [1].

Additionally, 57 percent said they have less than $25,000 in savings or investments that could go toward their retirement.

Learn to live comfortably on a retirement budget

Living on $40,000 per year during retirement means a person would need a $1 million nest egg, according to CNBC. Some retirees choose to relocate to cities with cheaper cost of living to stretch their dollars.

Ralph and Karen Jones told CNBC they moved from New York to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina [2]. Karen Jones said she was amazed to see the difference in what their money would buy in South Carolina compared to New York.

"I didn't think that we could maintain the lifestyle that we wanted if we stayed in New York after retiring," Karen Jones said.

The couple bought a new home in South Carolina and pay less property taxes than they did in New York. That extra money alone has allowed them to travel and not worry about making large purchases.

Craig Brimhall, vice president of wealth strategies for a financial institution, said it's important for people to figure out how to live within a budget before they retire.

"Cutting back on extras like dining out, designer coffee, and purchases you don't need are easy ways to jump start a savings plan," Brimhall told USA Today. "The earlier you can start saving, the better. Allocating money for retirement can have the snowball effect - meaning it may not seem like much is happening at first, but as a result of compound interest, those savings will eventually build up to form a large base of cash."

Planning ahead

There's a massive difference in confidence for those who have a retirement plan compared to those who don't. The survey from EBRI revealed 44 percent of respondents without a retirement plan aren't confident they have enough money saved for retirement. Meanwhile, only 14 percent of those with a plan feel this same sentiment.

LinkedIn reported a single retiree living on a modest budget could make do with $23,363 per year [3]. A couple living on a modest budget would need just $33,664 per year. For those wanting a comfortable retirement, $42,433 per year is the amount a single man or woman would need to live comfortably in retirement, while $58,128 per year would allow a couple to live comfortably.


[1]. One-third have almost no retirement savings

[2]. Million-dollar question: How much do you need to retire?

[3]. How much do I need to live comfortably in retirement?


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