Many American workers plan to retire young and live in style once they walk away from their careers, but they tend to grossly underestimate how much money they’ll need to make that dream a reality. A new survey from personal finance site GOBankingRates reveals that 58.5 is the age that the average person hopes to pack it in at work for a life of travel, passion pursuits and leisure time with family. The problem is, however, that they overwhelmingly tend to overestimate how far a relatively small nest egg will take them through a long retirement.
Which means, one way or another, things won’t end up as hoped. The results of this survey can help you find out if you’re among the many who are lowballing what’s needed to retire comfortably. Then you can realign your expectations, adjust your goals and tune up your strategy for getting there. On the other hand, you just might discover that you’re one of the few realists who actually understands how much is needed to ride off into the post-career sunset.
For many, just limping across the six-figure line sounds like enough. When given a multiple-choice question about their retirement savings goals, the largest percentage of respondents by far—39% chose $100,000 to $250,000, the lowest possible savings range. Just 13% chose the number-two most popular answer, which happened to be on the other end of the financial spectrum. That choice, “more than $2 million,” was the largest savings range offered. Just 11% each chose the second-lowest and second-highest ranges $250,001 to $400,000, and $1,000,001 to $2 million, respectively. The options in the middle received only single-digit percentages. The fact that people are most likely to shoot for less than a quarter-million dollars is not reassuring considering that even the $2 million outlier wouldn’t always guarantee smooth sailing.
A nest egg without two commas is probably not enough. “Certainly, a $2 million nest egg would go a long way toward giving most Americans the retirement of their dreams as long as they don’t encounter serious health issues or other financial hurdles that could hurt retirement savings,” according to GOBankingRates life and money columnist Cameron Huddleston. “But a retirement savings of $100,000 or $250,000 won’t go nearly as far as people might think.”
To make her point, Huddleston referred to another GOBankingRates study that found that based on the cost of living and assuming a 4% annual drawdown of savings, retirees in every single state in America would need more than $1 million to retire comfortably.
Women and older savers are more likely to aim low. The survey also revealed that women are much more likely than men to set their goals too low in terms of retirement savings, with 46% choosing the lowest possible savings range compared towithjust 32% of men. That, as Huddleston points out, is unfortunate, considering that women outlive men on average and therefore tend to have even more retirement years to fund. Men are about twice as likely as women to shoot for the highest range of more than $2 million. There’s also an age discrepancy that trends toward savers aiming lower the closer they are to retirement. Just 4% to 7% of respondents ages 45 and up say they’re aiming to save more than $2 million compared with 30% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 18% of 25-to-34-year-olds who reported shooting for that lofty goal.