By Carolyn Bigda, Chicago Tribune (TNS)
Saving for retirement is no easy task, but a new study says you don’t need to be a Powerball winner to put away enough cash for old age.
According to the study by Fidelity Investments, 45 percent of those surveyed in 2015 were on track to cover essential expenses during their retirement, up from 38 percent in 2013.
Although that’s still less than half the population, the percentage is heading in the right direction. One reason: People are saving more.
From 2013 to 2015, the median savings rate among survey participants jumped from 7.3 percent to 8.5 percent.
Millennials, those age 25 to 34, made the biggest leap of any group, with a median savings rate of 7.5 percent in 2015, up from 5.8 percent two years before. (The study was based on responses from 4,650 people age 25 to 75 who earn at least $20,000 annually.)
For young investors, a higher savings rate is especially beneficial.
“They have time on their side and a long work history ahead of them,” said John Sweeney, executive vice president of retirement and investing strategies at Fidelity. “So the biggest thing that they can do is to increase their savings rate.”
Although millennials are socking away more, they still fall short of the 15 percent savings rate that many financial advisers, along with Fidelity, recommend for retirement.
“If millennials doubled their savings rate, it would have a very significant improvement on their retirement preparedness,” Sweeney said.
You can see the impact for yourself by using Fidelity’s Retirement Score calculator. The calculator will ask your age, annual salary, how much you’ve saved for retirement so far and a few other financial details. It also makes assumptions about the future, like market returns and Social Security benefits.
In the end, you get a score, which is then ranked on a scale of colors ranging from red (the worst) to dark green (the best).
If your score puts you in dark green, you should be able to cover all of your essential costs in retirement, plus fun stuff like travel. Land in the red, and you’re at risk of not being able to cover even your basic needs.
The 15 percent recommended savings rate includes any employer match you might get in your 401(k) or other company-sponsored retirement plan. The closer you can get to — or even exceed — that goal, the better off you’ll be.
Take a 27-year-old today with $10,000 in retirement savings and an annual salary of $50,000. His score lands in the red if he saves $300 per month and retires at age 67, when he is eligible for full Social Security benefits.
But if he saves twice as much per month, his score changes to light green. (Light green means you can cover your essential expenses in retirement but not all of your discretionary ones.)
If you can’t save more for retirement, changing your portfolio’s asset allocation can also brighten your financial future.
“It’s not as impactful as other steps,” Sweeney said, “but it does make a difference.”
In the example above, the 27-year-old had an allocation of 70 percent stocks and 30 percent bonds and cash. But if the portfolio mix was too conservative — say, with only 20 percent in stocks and the rest in bonds and cash — his score fell. Likewise, the score took a hit if he invested 100 percent in stocks.
For a young investor, Fidelity recommends putting 90 percent in stocks and the remaining 10 percent in bonds.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Carolyn Bigda writes Getting Started for the Chicago Tribune. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo: Retirement Plan. American Advisors Group via Flickr