Our top picks of timely offers from our partnersMore details
There are a few rules of thumb out there aimed at helping you figure out where stage you're at in the retirement savings. One analysis found that you should have at least your annual salary saved up by age 30 to be on track to retire by age 67. And by age 40, you should have three times your annual salary saved.
Another strategy uses the 4% rule to help individuals calculate their retirement number — you'd just multiply your yearly expenses by 25 to find an "end goal" for how much money you need before you can retire with enough money to last you 30 years.
But before you try to start calculating numbers, there's another important way to track your retirement savings progress — and it's probably the first strategy you should turn to. Liz Sheehan, the Senior Vice President of Wealth Management at UBS, recommends coming up with a financial plan when starting to think about retirement.
"Unfortunately, there is no shortcut," Sheehan says. "A comprehensive financial plan is the best way for someone to know if they are on track."
A financial plan can give you a clear idea of which areas you're already hitting your goals in and which ones you need to focus on more. Part of coming up with a proper financial plan means getting clear on the things you need to do and want to do as you work toward retirement. For instance, if you know you want to travel the world in retirement, you'll need a lot more money to float those travel expenses compared to an instance where your ideal retirement looks more like downsizing and moving to a low cost of living area.
According to Sheehan, there are a few questions you should consider when coming up with clear goals and a plan around retirement:
- How do you envision your life and your family in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?
- If you didn't have to work, how would you spend your time?
- What would you like to accomplish with your wealth?
- Are there any financial concerns you have that you would like addressed through the financial planning process? (I.e. Do you want to buy a home and/or how to pay for your child's college)
Of course, planning for retirement is more than just figuring out how much money to invest each month. You'll also want to consider other areas of potential change you can encounter in life.
"Financial planning goes beyond basic budgeting and evaluates topics such as insurance planning, liability management and estate planning," Sheehan says. A financial plan should also encompass asset allocation review, education planning for children (including how to pay for college tuition), charitable planning and insurance analysis, she explains further.
Of course, you don't have to try to answer all these questions and scenarios on your own. A financial planner can help you navigate the process regardless of what stage of life you're in. You can also discuss what tools might be best for you to use to reach your goals. For instance, robo-advisors, like Wealthfront and Betterment, automatically adjust your investment portfolio allocation depending on your goals and risk tolerance, so this might be a solid recommendation for someone who wants a more hands-off, but still customized, approach to retirement investing.
Minimum deposit and balance
Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. $500 minimum deposit for investment accounts
Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Zero account, transfer, trading or commission fees (fund ratios may apply). Wealthfront annual management advisory fee is 0.25% of your account balance
Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash. Additional asset classes to your portfolio include real estate, natural resources and dividend stocks
Offers free financial planning for college planning, retirement and homebuying
Minimum deposit and balance
Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For example, Betterment doesn't require clients to maintain a minimum investment account balance, but there is a ACH deposit minimum of $10. Premium Investing requires a $100,000 minimum balance.
Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected, account balances, etc. Click here for details.
Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash
Betterment offers retirement and other education materials
Terms apply. Does not apply to crypto asset portfolios.
"Financial planning is a process, it is not something that is done once in isolation and never revisited," Sheehan explains. "I suggest that clients revisit their financial plan once a year, or during every life change."
A financial plan is one of the most important strategies you can use to figure out whether or not you're on track with your retirement goals, since the plan encompasses both qualitative and quantitative aspects of your goals. If you don't know how to start creating a financial plan or what should even go into your financial plan, an advisor or financial planner will be able to lend a hand.