How to Stay on Top of Your Retirement Savings

February 23, 2024 Rob Williams Beginner
Ever wonder if you're on track to reach your retirement goal? Here's how to calculate how much you should have saved by now.

Knowing how much to save for retirement is a two-fold challenge. First, it’s difficult to estimate your expenses—and thus, your income needs—for a retirement that’s years, if not decades, away. Second, even after you settle on a target portfolio size, it’s hard to gauge if you’re saving enough to reach that goal.

To bring some clarity to this retirement-savings conundrum, we’ve developed a guide to help you estimate how much you should have in your retirement portfolio today based on your age and income. Once you’ve determined whether your portfolio is on track, behind, or ahead, you can act now to help make sure you achieve your retirement goals.

Calculating your target savings

Retirement looks different for everyone. But assuming you’ll maintain the same lifestyle in retirement that you currently enjoy, you can calculate how much you should have saved by now using your annual income and an appropriate multiplier based on your age, which you can find in the following table.

Annual income multiplier range by age

To find your multiplier, go to the row with the age closest to your own and use the multiplier given in the column to the right. If you find yourself between ages, consider averaging the lower-age and higher-age multipliers. If your income is less than $100,000, focus more on the lower end of the annual income multiplier range. If you earn more than $250,000 or want to be more confident that your savings can withstand unexpected retirement expenses, think about using a higher multiplier.

Annual income multiplier range by age

  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 
  • Current age 
  • Annual income multiplier 

Let's look at a couple of scenarios.

Scenario 1

Ruth is 45 years old and makes $265,000 annually. Based on the table, her current estimated retirement portfolio should be around 3–5x her income, or around $795,000 to $1,325,000. Since her earnings are on the higher end of the income spectrum, she should consider comparing her current portfolio value to the higher estimate.

Scenario 2

Alan is 53 years old and has an income of $100,000. Because Alan is between ages in the table, he could average the multiplier ranges for age 50 (5–7x) and age 55 (6–9x) and use 5.5–8x to calculate his target savings, making his current estimated retirement portfolio around $550,000 to $800,000. If Alan plans to splurge on travel in retirement, then he might consider focusing on the higher end of the estimated portfolio range.

Remember, these multipliers are meant to be a quick guide to help approximate where your estimated retirement savings should be at a certain age. For more specific recommendations and guidance, seek professional advice.

Do you need to adjust your retirement savings plan?

Once you know whether you're behind target, on track, or ahead of target to reach your retirement savings goal, here's what to do next:

If you're behind: Don't panic—but do take action.

  • Save more now: It's the most obvious—and probably the most difficult—solution, but the sooner you boost your savings, the longer your money can potentially benefit from compound growth. Increase your annual contributions and remember to save at least enough to capture your full employer match, if offered.
  • Reassess your goal: Can you live on less? Some expenses may go away in retirement, such as commuting costs or a mortgage payment. If you feel you can also reduce your retirement spending during down markets, you can also work with fewer assets.
  • Stay flexible: Don't get discouraged. If you work a few years longer, or if you work part time in retirement, you may not need to tap your portfolio for income right away. That could also help delay Social Security, which could boost your benefit by as much as 8% per year after you reach full retirement age.

If you're on track: Keep up the good work. Continue making contributions and rebalance your portfolio regularly.

  • Max out your retirement accounts: For 2024, individuals can contribute up to $23,000 (plus a $7,500 catch-up contribution if your age 50 or older) to a 401(k) and up to $7,000 (plus a $1,000 catch-up contribution) to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).
  • Stick with stocks: Your portfolio should become more conservative as you near retirement—but not too conservative. Consider maintaining at least some exposure to stocks to capture potential market growth but not so much that you lose sleep should the market stumble.

If you're ahead: Congrats! Stay focused and maintain your cushion.

  • Keep saving: Continue saving as much as you can for as long as you can. You never know when life—or the market—will throw you a curveball.
  • Review your assumptions: Are you planning to retire early? Are you planning to spend more in retirement? Are you not planning on other income sources in retirement like Social Security or a pension to supplement your savings? Make sure your savings align to your retirement vision. 

Get a second opinion

No matter where you are on your journey to retirement, working with a financial planner is a great way to pressure-test your retirement assumptions and create a realistic plan. And the sooner you act, the more time you’ll have to build additional savings, no matter where you are now.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request.

Performance may be affected by risks associated with non-diversification, including investments in specific countries or sectors. Additional risks may also include, but are not limited to, investments in foreign securities, especially emerging markets, real estate investment trusts (REITs), fixed income, small capitalization securities and commodities. Each individual investor should consider these risks carefully before investing in a particular security or strategy.

The projections or other information generated by an investment analysis tool regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results and are not guarantees of future results.

Investing involves risks, including loss of principal.

Rebalancing does not protect against losses or guarantee that an investor’s goal will be met. Rebalancing may cause investors to incur transaction costs and, when a non-retirement account is rebalanced, taxable events may be created that may affect your tax liability.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (“Schwab”) recommends consultation with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, financial planner, or investment manager.

The Schwab Center for Financial Research is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.