How Much is 'Enough' for Retirement?

When it comes to retirement, no nest egg is ever too big.


But with an economic crisis draining the life from 401(k)s, IRAs and pension plans, a lot of people are asking themselves if they can still afford to retire early, on time or at all.

Individuals "can still set any goal they want," says author and economist Ben Stein. "The question is, can they get to it?"

In recent years, it wasn't unusual for investors to recoup 8 percent or 9 percent annually from their retirement accounts, he says. "Those predictions are now off the table."

Now, our nation’s financial predicament has many people challenging the assumptions they'd made about retirement.

"The real question is if retirement as a whole is still relevant," says Stein, author of "How to Ruin the United States of America." The recent economic crisis "has put a crowbar into people's retirement planning," he says. And it "calls into question whether a whole generation of Americans can retire. The result is that all bets are off."

3 steps to control
Three things you can do to take control of your retirement are find a job you truly love and retire later; save more for retirement; and maintain a more modest standard of living, Stein says.

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And while you may choose to alter your plans or your investment strategy, the important thing is to keep saving. "You really should be maxing out whatever retirement plan you have at work because you're going to need it with this crazy economy," says Karen Altfest, a Certified Financial Planner and vice president of L.J. Altfest & Co., a New York-based fee-only financial planning firm.

"Pay attention to it," says Ric Edelman, author of "The Lies about Money." "Retirement," he says, "will be here before you know it."

Drew Tignanelli, president of the Financial Consulate, a Maryland-based planning firm, agrees. "Unless you believe the world's coming to an end, you should keep putting it away," says Tignanelli, a CFP and CPA.

That doesn't mean closing your ears to what's going on or reacting to every bit of "breaking" news you hear. "Getting scared sets the tone to make mistakes," he says. Instead, it's a good time to sit with a neutral professional (one who doesn't make a cut from moving your money around or selling certain products) and hammer out your best long-range strategy.

"There are unique periods of time where you need more active management," he says. "This is one of them."

What's the 'Magic' Number?