When it comes to saving for the future, Americans are lagging way behind.
The median amount of retirement savings for working-age families in the U.S., those ages 32 to 61, is just $5,000. About a third, or 35 percent, of all adults in the U.S. have only several hundred dollars in their savings accounts and 34 percent have zero, according to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey.
That's a lot less than you'll probably need. By age 45, experts recommend that you have the equivalent of four times your annual salary in the bank if you plan to retire at 67 and keep up a similar lifestyle, according to a recent report by financial services company Fidelity.
And it's a lot. So how do you get there?
Save as much as you can as early as you can. Fidelity recommends putting away 15 percent of your income per year starting at age 25 and investing more than 50 percent of your savings over your lifetime.
"The good news is that that 15 percent also includes any employer match," Ken Hevert, senior vice president of retirement at Fidelity, tells CNBC Make It. That means if you're eligible for a 5 percent match on your 401(k) plan and you contribute 5 percent of your salary to the account, you're already putting away 10 percent.
Three big factors determine if you're on track for retirement: amount, account and asset allocation. In addition to saving 15 percent of your income, you should be investing. The easiest way to get started is to sign up for your employer's 401(k) plan and take full advantage of any company match, which essentially gives you free money.
In addition to saving and investing, you also want to create a diversified portfolio. "The purpose of diversification, ultimately, is that through different economic cycles and different policy cycles, some asset classes will perform better than others," Hevert says.
As the market swells and declines over the years, a mix of various types of investments will keep you from being at the mercy of how one specific stock, or kind of stock, is performing.
Accruing four times your annual income by 45 represents an ideal scenario, especially if you choose to divert savings to other goals, such as buying a home or having kids. But, as a general rule, if you're aiming to save around 15 percent of your income — or as close as you can get — and invest it, "you're going to be in the right ballpark," Hevert says.
At the end of the day, how much you'll want to save for retirement will depend on the lifestyle that you want to maintain during your golden years. Do you want to travel? Pursue a hobby? Go back to school? "This is all about giving people the confidence that they're going to be able to maintain a desired lifestyle, while also putting themselves in the best position to not run out of money," Hevert says.
If you're interested in jump-starting your savings, here's a few sources of inspiration to get you started:
- 5 tips to save more money, from ordinary people who have paid off thousands
- The easy trick that helped one 26-year-old save $18,432 in 6 months
- 6 ways to save more money without trying too hard
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