Americans Think $300,000 is Enough for Retirement; Most Have Saved Far Less

While the amount people need to save for retirement varies greatly and depends on multiple factors, most retirement researchers can agree that it’s much higher than $300,000—the median amount middle class Americans believe they’ll need to support them after they retire, according to a new Wells Fargo survey.

Even worse, they’ve only saved a median of $25,000 to date, and 16% of the survey respondents—1,000 middle class Americans between the ages of 25 and 75—reported saving for a retirement as a key concern.

More than half (52%) named paying their monthly bills as their most important day-to-day financial concern, and four in ten Americans without a written retirement plan say the reason they haven’t planned for retirement is because they’re too focused on current financial obligations. This is particularly true for people in their 50s, says Wells Fargo, where more than half (54%) say they’re too focused on today, to plan for the future.

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“It is so tough for Americans to save for retirement, and we feel it is very important to keep shining the light on this issue. People say they’ll work longer, but how possible will this be for millions of Americans?” said Joe Ready, director of Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust. “Preparing for retirement can’t be kicked down the road because the other picture that is emerging is how many people will live very close to the poverty line in retirement. We’ve got to marshal our resources as a country, an industry and as individuals to deal with the issues creating this cliff.”

A full three-quarters of Americans described their calculations for retirement to be some sort of a guess, while barely more than a fifth (22%) described their planning efforts as detailed and based on calculations. 

More than half of pre-retirees report a lack of confidence that they will have saved enough for the life they want in retirement, at 53% in the most recent Wells Fargo survey compared to 42% a year ago.

Nearly a third of Americans (30%) say they’ll need to work “until at least 80” in order to live comfortably in retirement, up five percentage points from the previous year. Similar to last year, 70% of middle class Americans say they’ll work in retirement, with nearly four in ten reporting they’ll need to do so out of financial necessity. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace