How Much to Save for Retirement in Your 30s

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Your 30s are an exciting time to be an investor. For many people, this is the decade your career takes off, and you begin to outline your retirement goals.

Even though retirement is still years away and you’re in your prime earning stage, your 30s are a great time to start building an end game and creating a sound financial future for yourself.

This article explores how much you should have in your brokerage account for retirement when you’re in your 30s — and why you should get excited about saving.

How Much Should You Have in Retirement Savings?

Most financial advisors recommend having ½ to 1 ½ times your income saved for retirement by the time you reach 30. Your work isn’t done once you get there, though, because you’re supposed to double that number by 35.

Let’s say you make $50,000. You should ideally have $25,000 to $75,000 in retirement savings socked away by the time you are 30. By the time you are 35, this figure should be in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.

Of course, this may be unrealistic depending on your situation. How much you have saved up for retirement depends on a lot of different factors. Some people start planning for retirement in their early 20s or even younger while others spend their 20s and even some of their 30s getting through school, paying down debt from student loans and credit cards, and changing jobs frequently — making it difficult to save.

With this in mind, you may have a lot more in retirement savings or you may just be getting started on your retirement journey. If the latter scenario is the case, don’t worry: At 30, you still have roughly three decades or more to work and save money. Never forget that everyone has their own timeline and vision for retirement.

How to Save for Retirement

You may be scratching your head wondering how on earth you can put this much money in the bank for retirement. But as it turns out, it’s not that hard. All you need is a plan.

  1. Make a Commitment to Saving
  2. Outline Your Vision of Retirement
  3. Create a Budget
  4. Diversify Your Savings and Investments
  5. Increase Your Revenue

1. Make a Commitment to Saving

The first thing you’ll want to do is embrace the fact that you need to start saving for retirement and set some achievable savings goals.

When you’re in your early 20s and living your best life — collecting paychecks, traveling, and having fun — retirement can seem a lifetime away.

But if you’re not in your early 20s anymore and you have a cavalier attitude toward retirement savings, it will eventually catch up to you. If you ever want to stop working, you have to start taking saving and investing seriously. Otherwise, you may struggle to achieve your long-term goals.

So, come to terms with the fact that nobody is going to pay for retirement for you. Even if you have a nice emergency fund, a healthy 401k, and even a pension, you still need to fund a retirement plan. The sooner you come to terms with this, the better you’ll be. Make retirement one of your top long-term financial goals, and you increase the chances you’ll be able to live out your golden years comfortably.

2. Outline Your Vision of Retirement

Many millennials today tend to have a skewed and outdated vision of what retirement looks like. It may involve moving to Florida or rushing for early bird specials.

It’s time to rethink your vision of retirement. What if instead of retiring at 75 and sitting on the couch, you want to retire at 50 and sail around the world or write a book? Or what if you retired from the rat race even earlier, but worked a lower-paying “bridge job” that you love as a way to ease your way into a full-fledged retirement?

Either way, retiring early and living the life you dream is not out of reach. You can make it happen with a little bit of planning, a deep understanding of your investment options, and the diversification of asset allocation.

Spend some time thinking about what retirement means to you. Ask yourself what you want out of life, and whether your current job or even profession are aligned with that vision or if changes are needed.

Then form a game plan and get to work.

TIP: Taking a mini-retirement during your working years is a great way to get a taste of full-fledged retirement.

3. Create a Budget

At this point, you should have a better vision of retirement and the mindset to make it happen. The next step is to form a budget and determine how much of your monthly income can go toward retirement planning.

The rule of thumb when budgeting for retirement is to save at least 15% of your pretax income.  So if you make $50,000, you’d want to put $7,500 away annually.

Whether you’re able to live by the 15% benchmark depends on several different factors like your commitment to savings, your living expenses, your cash flow, and your debt.

For some people, putting $7,500 away for retirement on a salaried income is next to impossible. If you’re making a substantial amount as an entrepreneur or high earner, it may just be a drop in the bucket.

Form a budget and look for ways to save more money if needed. Determine how much you can safely put aside while maintaining a decent lifestyle and prioritize saving.

As you put your budget together, look for areas of waste that you can reduce to save money and put more aside for retirement. For example, maybe you can cut back on media purchases or cook more at home to cut down on delivery costs.

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4. Diversify Your Savings and Investments

The next step is to look at where your retirement funds are going. Focus on building a diversified and multifaceted portfolio to reduce risk and maximize earning potential.

401k

If your company offers a 401k retirement plan, you should seriously consider taking up this opportunity — especially if your employer provides a company match.  Employer matches — which are basically free money — can make all the difference in your retirement savings, potentially to hundreds or thousands of dollars annually.

For 2021, the maximum employee elective deferral for a 401k is $19,500.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

An IRA is a type of retirement plan that you can use regardless of whether you’re investing in a 401k. You can fill an IRA with a variety of investments like individual stocks, index funds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, and real-estate investment trusts (REITs).

Traditional IRA

A traditional IRA is a retirement account that is funded with pre-tax contributions. In other words, you can fund the account and let the money grow on a tax-deferred basis until retirement. You’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the money at retirement age.

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Roth IRA

A Roth IRA enables you to invest post-tax dollars in a retirement account, and then take qualified withdrawals on a tax-free basis. With a Roth IRA, you pay taxes up front instead of when you reach retirement age.

IRAs have a combined contribution limit. For 2021, you can allocate a total of $6,000 to a Roth IRA, traditional IRA, or both.

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High-Yield Savings Account (HYSA)

If you have any money left over in your budget after maximizing your tax-friendly retirement accounts, consider opening an HYSA from an online bank. With an HYSA, you’ll gain the flexibility of a savings account, with much higher interest rates than you’ll find at a traditional bank.

Starting an HYSA when you’re young allows you to safely put money aside for retirement, shielding it from the volatility of the stock market. Your money will collect compound interest — or interest on interest — putting more money in your pocket when you retire.

This is important for people who are retiring early and need access to funds before IRA or Social Security funds become available.

5. Increase Your Revenue

It’s common for investors to get lazy when planning for retirement. First comes the initial scare of realizing you don’t have enough saved up, then the hard decision about setting money aside for retirement, and then the realization that saving for retirement means less money in your pocket — for a long time.

The trick is to increase your revenue to fill the hole in your pocket from retirement savings. By doing this, you won’t miss the money quite as much — and it will be much less tempting to try and change your savings plan down the road to get more of it.

Ask for a Raise

Most salaried workers should feel comfortable asking for a raise at least once a year. In fact, most employers expect this and budget for it. So, if you don’t get that money, someone else on your team might pocket it instead.

Yearly raises may amount to 3% to 5% of your annual salary — or even more if you are bringing in a considerable amount for the company or are an indispensable member of the team.

Change Jobs if Needed

If you have been with the same company for more than a few years, it could be time for a job change. This keeps you hungry and avoiding getting complacent as you approach middle age. It also increases your chances of getting a significant bump in salary.

If you like your job, consider asking your employer for a sit-down about your salary. If you’re not in the same ballpark, it may be time to look elsewhere.

Ultimately, it’s your call about where you work and what you do for a living. Just make sure you’re not settling for a job because you’re afraid of taking on a new opportunity. From a financial standpoint, your salary should be trending upwards year over year. And if it’s not, you are limiting your earning potential.

Start a Side Hustle

Another option is to start a side gig to start bringing in extra money each month. Side hustles can be extremely lucrative and they can even turn into full-time jobs in some cases.

A side hustle can be anything from walking dogs to driving for Uber to designing apps. If you have a skill or area of interest, consider putting your talents to work to bring in more money for retirement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you have too much saved for retirement?

It’s impossible to save too much for retirement. In fact, most investors are behind in their savings and need to make catch-up contributions to stay on track.

If you max out a 401k, put more money into an IRA. Once you max out an IRA, put your money into HYSAs, money market accounts, and real estate investments.

Can life insurance help with retirement savings?

Most people sign up for life insurance that comes with death benefits for family members. However, there are certain life insurance policies available that can provide tax-free growth for retirement — meaning you can have living benefits in addition to death benefits for your loved ones in the event of your demise.

Talk to a life insurance specialist about setting up a life insurance plan that can provide both options for you. You will most likely pay more for it each month. But it’s another way of growing your money and protecting your family at the same time.

What if you don’t save for retirement?

If you don’t save for retirement, you could be in for a rough road during your golden years.

In 2021, the most that an individual who files a claim for Social Security retirement benefits can get is $3,895 per month (age 70). For someone who files at 62, it’s only $2,324 — or $27,888 a year.

So, unless you want to live a bare-bones retirement on a meager salary issued by the government, it’s best to put as much money away as possible now so that it can grow over time. Otherwise, you are going to pay for it dearly when you stop working — and you may even need to get a job in old age for extra retirement income.

The Bottom line

You’re going to reach retirement age before you know it.

The good news is that — if you’re smart about saving for retirement — you can get out of the rat race early and start living life on your terms. Otherwise, you can take the traditional route and retire later in life if that’s what you prefer.

Either way, both options require planning and commitment. Nobody is going to put money aside for retirement for you.

Start planning your nest egg today and take control of your personal finances. Your future self is already thanking you for looking out.

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