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Americans say they’re on track for retirement—but many probably aren’t saving enough

Most Americans feel like they’re saving up plenty to retire comfortably, but for many people, it’s probably not enough, according to recent data.

Just over two-thirds of the respondents for a Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies survey conducted late last year say they’re confident that they’ll be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle, with 24% saying they’re “very confident.” However, this confidence is undercut by other survey results.

Almost half of workers agree with the statement “I don’t have enough income to save for retirement,” and 57% of workers say they plan to work in retirement, with 80% of those respondents citing “financial reasons” as their reason for doing so.   

And when it comes to actual retirement savings, the median amount saved was $93,000 for all age groups in the survey. While that’s a great start for people in their 20s, it’s increasingly less likely to be enough money to retire comfortably as people get older, according to Peter T. Palion, a certified financial planner and founder of Master Plan Advisory, Inc.

“$93,000 is terrific for a 31-year-old, not impressive for a 41-year-old, worrisome for a 51-year-old and woefully inadequate for a 61-year-old,” says Palion.

“The bottom line is that [$93,000 is] probably not enough money,” says Michelle Gessner, a certified financial planner at Gessner Wealth Strategies, who commonly recommends that her clients put 10-20% of their income into retirement savings, depending on their situation. 

“It’s not just about retirement, it’s about preparing for unforeseen things, too,” says Gessner. “What if you can’t work as long as you want? What if you have a long-term health-care event? What if your spouse passes away prematurely, and your Social Security check is reduced to one check from two?

“People are often overconfident about their savings, and that’s usually because they underestimate costs.”

How to put aside more money for retirement

Of course, it’s not always easy to set more money aside for retirement — especially since many workers are also struggling to cover other expenses, like credit card or student loan debt.

Gessner says paying off high-interest debt and topping up your emergency fund (she recommends setting aside enough to cover six to 12 months of expenses) should remain priorities, and saving for retirement doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” approach.

“You can still save for retirement, but maybe not as much if you have to make payments on your credit card,” she says. Basically, save what you can, even if it’s not much.

While Gessner suggests consulting a financial planner, a good starting point is to think about how much money you’ll need to live in retirement and use a retirement calculator to determine the monthly savings needed to reach that goal.

If you need to bump up your contributions, consider reviewing all of your expenses to see if there’s an opportunity to cut costs and redirect some money toward retirement savings, such as by renegotiating an insurance policy or cell phone plan, or dropping unused subscription services. 

“I’ve noticed that the more someone earns, the more they don’t know where their money is going,” says Gessner. “And when they do take a close look, they often find areas of spending that don’t mean that much to them.”

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