Contributing to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan is an effective way to save for retirement: You get significant tax advantages, the money is automatically taken from your paycheck before you have the chance to spend it and, often, companies offer a match, which is essentially free money.
Consistent contributions can even make you a millionaire. In fact, the number of Fidelity 401(k) accounts with a balance of $1 million or more recently hit a record of 168,000, up 41 percent from last year.
To give you an idea of how your retirement savings stack up against your peers, check out the average 401(k) balances in Fidelity accounts, as of the second quarter of 2018, broken down by age. The data was provided to CNBC Make It by Fidelity, the nation's largest retirement-plan provider:
Age 20 to 29: $11,500
Age 30 to 39: $42,700
Age 40 to 49: $103,500
Age 50 to 59: $174,200
Age 60 to 69: $192,800
Here are the average contribution rates by age, also from Fidelity:
Age 20 to 29: 6.8 percent
Age 30 to 39: 7.6 percent
Age 40 to 49: 8.4 percent
Age 50 to 59: 10 percent
Age 60 to 69: 11.1 percent
How much should I be saving for retirement?
The answer to this is highly personal and depends on your lifestyle and spending habits, but there are a few basic guidelines to follow if you want to retire comfortably.
For starters, many experts recommend setting aside at least 10 percent of your income as soon as possible. A 2017 report from the International Longevity Centre — UK (ILC-UK) finds that people should be saving at least 11 percent, and ideally more like 20 percent, of your income if you want "to achieve an adequate retirement income," which it defines as 70 percent of your earnings throughout your working life.
- By age 30: Have the equivalent of your starting salary saved
- By age 35: Have two times your salary saved
- By age 40: Have three times your salary saved
- By age 45: Have four times your salary saved
- By age 50: Have six times your salary saved
- By age 55: Have seven times your salary saved
- By age 60: Have eight times your salary saved
- By age 67: Have 10 times your salary saved
What if I don't have a 401(k)?
If you're one of the many Americans without access to a 401(k), don't stress, and don't use that as an excuse to put off saving for retirement. You have plenty of other options, including a traditional, Roth or SEP IRA, a health savings account (HSA) or a normal investment account.
Read up on all of your options, choose an account to fund and start setting aside money for your future today.
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!