Here's how much young people need to save to have an 'adequate' retirement

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

If you want to afford a comfortable retirement, start socking away at least 11 percent of your earnings every year.

That's according to a new report from the International Longevity Centre — UK (ILC-UK), which determined how much young people from 30 countries need to set aside in order to avoid short shortfalls and "to achieve an adequate retirement income."

The ILC-UK defines "adequate retirement income" as 70 percent of your earnings throughout your working life.

Unfortunately, thanks to various economic conditions — including low investment returns and interest rates, sluggish wage growth and the decline in Social Security benefits — "today's 20-somethings are projected to do worse than current retirees," according to the report.

Here's how much you should save at every age
Here's how much you should save at every age

As a consequence, if young people want the same level of retirement income adequacy as today's retirees, they'll have to save even more: "just over 20 percent of average wages," the ILC-UK reports.

That's a lot more than the typical American has socked away. According to the Economic Policy Institute, "nearly half of families have no retirement account savings at all."

To work your way up to that 11-to-20 percent range, start by contributing to your 401(k) plan, if your employer offers one. Regardless of whether you have a retirement savings plan at work, you can contribute to other tax-advantaged accounts designed for retirement, such as a traditional IRA, Roth IRA or myRA.

No matter the retirement savings vehicles you choose, the most important step is to open at least one account.

Next, follow these three steps so your money can grow over time:

  1. Contribute as much of your income as possible.
  2. Automate your contributions. Have your employer do a payroll deduction or have your money taken out of your checking account and sent straight to your retirement account. After all, you can't spend money you never see.
  3. Get in the habit of upping your savings consistently, either every six months, at the end of each year or whenever you get a raise. Again, if you make this automatic by setting up "auto-increase," you won't forget to up your contributions (or talk yourself out of setting aside a larger chunk).

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Use this simple rule to structure your savings
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