Do you know if you are on the right track to retire when you want? Do you know how much you will need in retirement and how you will accumulate it?
There are several theories about how to answer this question. I recommend walking through all of these exercises, so you’ll get a broad idea about whether or not you’re on-track.
The first rule-of-thumb is simple: are you saving at least 15% of each paycheck in retirement accounts, like a 401k, 403b or IRA?
Remember that employer matches qualify towards this total. If your employer matches the first 5% of your contribution, for example, then you can save 10% of your income, your employer chips in another 5%, and you’re saving a total of 15%.
#2: Replace 70 to 85 Percent
A popular rule-of-thumb is that you should be able to replace 70 to 85 percent of your current income in retirement. If you and your spouse earn $100,000 combined, for example, you should generate $70,000 to $85,000 each year in retirement.
Admittedly, this is a flawed rule-of-thumb, as it hinges on the assumption that your spending (expenses) are closely correlated to your income. (The unstated premise is that you’re spending most of what you make).
I recommend modifying this tactic, by scrutinizing your current expenses.
Which leads to the next tip …
#3: Estimate via Your Current Spending
Another way to approach this: estimate how much money you will need in retirement.
Start by looking at your current spending. This is a close approximation of how much money (in inflation-adjusted dollars) you’ll want to spend in retirement.
Yes, you have expenses today that you won’t have in retirement, such as your mortgage. (Ideally that will be paid off by the time you retire). But you’ll also have retirement costs that you don’t carry today, like certain out-of-pocket health and end-of-life care costs. And ideally, you’ll also travel more, enjoy more hobbies, and indulge a bit.
If you run through all of these rules-of-thumb, and the majority give you a thumbs-up result (saying that you’re on-track), you’re probably okay. But if multiple litmus tests tell you that you’re not on-track, it may be a warning sign that you should boost your retirement contributions.