When it comes to retirement savings, there are a number of factors to consider: Social Security, inflation, and health care costs. But ultimately all these concerns boil down to one question: How much do you need to save to retire?
Thankfully, there’s a formula for calculating these costs, which might help you plan for the future. But first, decide at what age you want to retire and then see how that decision affects your finances.
When Can You Get Full Social Security Benefits?
At what age does the government allow people to retire with full Social Security benefits? And at what age can people start withdrawing from their retirement accounts without facing penalties? For Social Security, the rules are based on your birth year.
The Social Security Administration has a retirement age calculator . For example, people born between 1943 and 1954 could retire with full Social Security benefits at age 66.
Meanwhile, those born in 1955 could retire at age 66 and two months, and those born in 1956 could retire at age 66 and four months. Those born in or after 1960 can retire at age 67 to receive full benefits.
Social Security Early Retirement
A recipient will be penalized if they retire before full retirement age. The earlier a person retires, the less they’ll receive in Social Security.
Let’s use John Doe as an example and say he was born in 1960, so full retirement age is 67. If he retires at age 66, he’ll receive 93.3% of Social Security benefits; age 66 will get John 86.7%. If he retires on his 62nd birthday–the earliest he can receive Social Security–he’ll only receive 70% of earnings.
Here’s a retirement planner table for those born in 1960, which shows how one’s benefits will be reduced.
Social Security Late Retirement
If a person wants to keep working until after full retirement age, they could earn greater monthly benefits.
For example, if the magic retirement number is 66 years but retirement is pushed back to 66 and one month, then Social Security benefits rise to 100.7% per month. So if your monthly benefit was supposed to be $1,000, but you wait until 66 years and one month, then your monthly allotment would increase to $1,007.
If retirement is pushed back to age 70, earnings go up to 132% of monthly benefits. But no need to calculate further: Social Security benefits stop increasing once a person reaches age 70. Here is a SSA table on delayed retirement .
When Can You Withdraw From Retirement Accounts?
Now let’s look at retirement accounts. Each type of account has different rules about when money can be taken out.
If a Roth IRA account has existed for at least five years, withdrawals from the account are usually okay after age 59½ without consequences. Taking out money earlier or withdrawing money from a Roth IRA that’s been open for fewer than five years could result in paying penalties and/or taxes.
There is a little wiggle room. Retirement withdrawal rules do have exceptions for issues like disability or educational expenses, and there is an option to withdraw money early and pay taxes or penalties.
If a person is at least 59½ and has a Roth IRA that is less than five years old, taxes will need to be paid upon withdrawal but not penalties. Taxes or penalties might not need to be paid at age 59½ and if the Roth IRA has been open for five years or more.
People with a traditional IRA can make withdrawals from ages 59½ to 72 without being penalized. The government will charge a 10% penalty on withdrawals before age 59.5, and depending on location, a state penalty tax might also be charged.
People with 401(k)s can typically retire by age 55 and make withdrawals without receiving a penalty. People with either a traditional IRA or 401(k) must start making withdrawals by age 72 or face a hefty penalty.
How Much to Save for Retirement? Here’s the Formula
Everyone’s situation is different, so it might make perfect sense for one person to retire at age 62 and another at 55. However, waiting until full retirement age or even age 70 not only gives Social Security more time to accrue—it gives a potential retiree more time to accumulate savings in a nest egg.
So is working till the age 70 absolutely necessary to earn enough money to live off of after retirement, or will there be enough in savings by age 67 or 68? This is where the question “How much do you need to save to retire?” comes in.
Fidelity’s research shows that if a 30-year retirement is planned and annual spending is expected to be 4% to 5% of savings, adjusting for inflation, there is about a 90% chance of not running out of money.
The exact percentage can depend on the age of retirement and life expectancy. That number changes if a person retires at age 60 and plans a 35-year retirement—about 4.3% could be withdrawn per year to retain that 90% likelihood of financial security.
To break it down, $1 million in savings is a fair number to get through the retirement years.
How Much Money Is Needed Each Year to Live On?
The rule of thumb was once 80% of current income. But that assumes the mortgage is paid off and taxes will be lower. Many people will still have mortgages.
Since a large part of a retirement income comes from withdrawals from retirement plans that give taxable income, the tax rate might not go down much. Plus, many people might want to travel or spend money on hobbies in the early years of retirement, and many might need expensive health care as they live into their 90s and beyond. That means more than a current income might be necessary.
A retiree may be living off money from both Social Security and a retirement account. If Social Security is an option, and if it’s still around at retirement, that could reduce the amount that needs to be withdrawn from a retirement account each year.
Here’s the Retirement Savings Formula: Start with current income, subtract estimated Social Security benefits, and divide by 0.04. That’s the target number in today’s dollars.
Nobody knows what the future holds—tax rates, inflation, health care reform, and Social Security are all outside our control. But the amount saved and invested is not.
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