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Are you saving enough for your dream retirement? 4 steps to figuring it out.

Use this framework to help you build a comfortable nest egg before you retire

ASK THREE FINANCIAL EXPERTS how much you need to save for retirement, and you might get three different answers: a specific number, say $3 million; a figure based on future spending, such as enough to draw down 80% to 90% of your pre-retirement income every year; or a simple formula, like saving 12 times your pre-retirement salary.


Did you know? $1,000,000 saved by age 65 might only provide $37,300 annually through age 97.1

But the real answer is more complicated than that. To get a clear idea of how much you may need for retirement, start by considering the many factors that could affect your future spending power, such as inflation, rising healthcare costs and a potential reduction in Social Security benefits if Congress doesn’t act to keep the program solvent. The good news is that the continuing rollout of provisions of SECURE Act 2.0 offers powerful new ways to save for retirement.


Even amid these uncertainties and new opportunities, it’s important to have a ballpark estimate of how much money you’ll ultimately need. To identify a target that fits your goals and priorities, work through these four steps with your advisor. “Your financial advisor can also suggest ways to adjust your current savings and investment plan to help you close any gaps,” says Jeremy Kaneer, director, Investment Solutions Group for Merrill and Bank of America Private Bank.

1. Picture your perfect retirement

Having a clear idea of the sort of lifestyle you want in retirement will help you estimate how much it could cost. Start by thinking about your essential or nonnegotiable regular expenses, such as a roof over your head, food on the table and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Then consider expenses that are important to your lifestyle. That might be anything from dining out frequently to traveling overseas every year. Offering financial support to aging parents or helping adult children or grandchildren with education expenses might also be a priority.


Finally, consider any aspirational or discretionary goals you may have, like purchasing a second home on the beach or in the mountains or pursuing certain philanthropic activities.


Tip: Nearly 50% of retirees say expenses are higher than expected.2 Use our retirement income planning worksheet to figure out yours.

Keep in mind, too, that some essential expenses — such as your own healthcare spending — may increase in retirement, while your retirement lifestyle may shift as you age. Nearly half of retirees say their overall expenses are higher than they predicted.2 You can use this retirement income planning worksheet to come up with an estimate of your future spending, and revisit it as your plans change. Just as you juggle and prioritize competing goals when you’re younger, you’ll need to do the same throughout retirement.

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2 Ask yourself: Could I outlive my money?

“There are multiple personal variables to weigh when starting to think about how much you’ll need to save for retirement,” says Kaneer. Your current age may be among the most important, but also consider how long you expect to live. Fifty-four percent of Americans say they aim to live to the age of 100, yet only 26% expect to work past age 70.3 If you feel similarly — especially if you’re young and in good health — your retirement may last 30 years or more, Kaneer notes.


No matter what your current age is, however, you may find that you end up retiring earlier (or later) than expected based on unforeseen circumstances. Either situation could affect the number of years you will need to rely on your assets for income. To help ensure that your money lasts in retirement, it’s important to plan for those possibilities.

3 Review how much you already have saved

Once you have a target annual income figure in mind, you and your advisor can take an audit of all of your anticipated sources of retirement income (retirement accounts, Social Security, pensions, annuities, rental income, an inheritance or sale of a business) and calculate how much you could potentially draw from them once you retire. Your personal retirement accounts may be one of your biggest sources of income, and you could be surprised by how much — or how little — even a seemingly large retirement account could provide over the course of a long retirement. See the chart below.

Graphic titled, “How much could $1 million or more give you per year?” which shows the projected annual income from investments at age 65. Visit the link below for a full description.

* The accumulated investment savings by age 65 could provide an annual retirement income, adjusted for future inflation (in today’s dollars), of this amount with a high (95%) probability of success for a life expectancy of 97.9 years, if withdrawn at a sustained spending rate of 3.73%, and invested using conservative asset allocations. Source: Chief Investment Office, Portfolio Analytics, “Determining sustainable retiree spending rates: Beyond the 4% rule,” January 2024.  

Your advisor can estimate how your assets might look in the future, given your current savings rate and investment allocation, factoring in the risk of inflation and market performance. (You can prepare for that conversation using our Personal Retirement Calculator, which lets you view a projection of your future savings based on your age and current savings rate.)

4 Plan ahead to close the gap

You and your advisor will then be ready to talk about any adjustments you might need to make. If you’re in your mid-30s, you may have 30 years to build assets, but if you’re relatively close to retirement, a first step may be figuring out what you’re spending today and calculating whether you’re on track to support that in retirement.


Tip: Starting in 2025, anyone 60 to 63 may be able to save an extra $10,000 in catch-up contributions.

“Even if you find that you’re behind where you want to be, don’t get discouraged,” advises Kaneer. “There are a number of ways that you can catch up.” Be sure you’ve maxed out tax-advantaged retirement plans, such as a 401(k) or IRA, and taken advantage of any employer match. If you’re 50 or over, you may be eligible for additional “catch-up” contributions. Under SECURE 2.0, those contributions will be adjusted for inflation, and starting in 2025, those who are 60 to 63 may be able to save an extra $10,000 a year.


Graphic titled, ‘Worried you won’t have enough,’ which depicts how much more an investor could save if they maxed out their retirement account contributions. Visit the link below for a full description.

Sources: Bank of America Office of the CIO and Compound Interest Calculator. Assumes a 7.1% annual return. The 401(k) contribution includes the $7,500/year catch-up contribution for those age 50-plus and does not include any potential company match. This example is hypothetical and does not represent the performance of a particular investment. This example assumes annual returns before taxes, fees and expenses. Your results will vary. Actual investing includes fees and other expenses that may result in lower returns than this hypothetical example.

Other tax-advantaged savings options include certain annuities and cash-value life insurance. With a high-deductible health insurance plan, you’re eligible to contribute pre-tax dollars to a health savings account, which can be rolled over year after year and used in retirement for more than healthcare costs.


Tip: The funds in a health savings account can be used in retirement for more than healthcare costs

A financial advisor may also suggest revisiting your investment strategy. “Asset allocation and thoughtful, goals-based portfolio management are two things that can potentially steer you to a better retirement outcome,” notes Kaneer.


Remember, too, that retirement is a journey. “You can always change course if you need to — maybe by working a few years longer or adjusting your expenses,” he adds. But by starting early and planning ahead, you’ll have a far better chance of living the life you truly want in retirement.


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1 Chief Investment Office, Portfolio Analytics, “Determining sustainable retiree spending rates: Beyond the 4% rule,” January 2024.

2 EBRI and Greenwald Research, “2023 Retirement Confidence Survey,” 2023.

3 Corebridge Financial and the Longevity Project, “Funding longer lives: Preparing Americans for greater financial security and well-being in retirement,” March 2024.


Important Disclosures


Opinions are as of 03/31/2023 and are subject to change.


Investing involves risk including possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.


This information should not be construed as investment advice and is subject to change. It is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be either a specific offer by Bank of America, Merrill or any affiliate to sell or provide, or a specific invitation for a consumer to apply for, any particular retail financial product or service that may be available.


The Chief Investment Office (CIO) provides thought leadership on wealth management, investment strategy and global markets; portfolio management solutions; due diligence; and solutions oversight and data analytics. CIO viewpoints are developed for Bank of America Private Bank, a division of Bank of America, N.A., (“Bank of America”) and Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (“MLPF&S” or “Merrill”), a registered broker-dealer, registered investment adviser and a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America Corporation (“BofA Corp.”).


Investments have varying degrees of risk. Some of the risks involved with equity securities include the possibility that the value of the stocks may fluctuate in response to events specific to the companies or markets, as well as economic, political or social events in the U.S. or abroad.  Bonds are subject to interest rate, inflation and credit risks. Treasury bills are less volatile than longer-term fixed income securities and are guaranteed as to timely payment of principal and interest by the U.S. government.

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