Here's how much most Americans think they need to save for retirement

Retirement in America is changing rapidly
Retirement in America is changing rapidly

If you can't pinpoint exactly how much money you'll need in retirement, you're not alone.

In a recent report, Merrill Edge finds that "many Americans are unable to articulate their 'magic number,' and those who can underestimate the amount" they will require.

More than half of respondents don't think they'll need more than $1 million, the amount financial advisors traditionally recommend savers aim for, and 19 percent simply don't know their number.

Merrill Edge Report Fall 2016

How much money do you need for retirement?

The answer is highly personal, and specific dollar amounts can be arbitrary, but according to retirement-plan provider Fidelity Investments, a good rule of thumb is to have 10 times your final salary in savings if you want to retire by age 67.

Fidelity also suggests a timeline to use in order to get to that magic number:

  • By 30: Have the equivalent of your salary saved
  • By 40: Have three times your salary saved
  • By 50: Have six times your salary saved
  • By 60: Have eight times your salary saved
  • By 67: Have 10 times your salary saved

The simplest starting point is to contribute to your 401(k) plan — a tax-advantaged retirement savings account that can facilitate building wealth — if your employer offers one.

"It's important for you to at least put enough in your 401(k) that you get the match if your employer offers one," certified financial planner Carolyn McClanahan tells CNBC. That means that, if you choose to put four percent of your salary into your account, your employer will put that same amount in as well, in effect doubling your contribution. But you only get their money if you put yours in first.

Next, you'll want to get in the habit of increasing your contributions consistently, either every six months, at the end of the year, or when you get a bonus or a raise.

It's also smart to consider alternate retirement savings accounts, such as a Roth IRA, traditional IRA, or health savings account, as experts say that relying on just a 401(k) plan may not be enough to fund your future.

If you already find yourself behind when it comes to retirement savings, don't let that discourage you from saving and investing.

It's never too late to start.

See also: Here's how much the average American family has saved for retirement.

The most important things to do with your money before 30
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