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How much is enough? Before you can create an effective plan to save for your retirement, you have to have a reasonably good estimate of how much you need to save--not just to sustain your lifestyle during retirement, but also to cover the anticipated extra costs to fund your dreams.

Moreover, effective planning is the key to preparing for threats like inflation that can jeopardize your retirement nest egg.

Below, will help you:

  • Determine your goals for retirement.
  • Accurately estimate how much you will need to save to meet these goals.
  • Evaluate if your current savings will be enough to reach these goals.
  • Suggest changes, if necessary, that you may want to consider.

Since your personal goals for retirement will determine the shape and size of your financial goals for retirement, it’s imperative to establish these personal goals as clearly as possible, as well as to understand how they translate into your financial plan for retirement.

If you’ve never sat down and committed your retirement goals to paper, now is the time. Read our general discussion about determining Financial Goals in's section on Financial Health.

Important Questions to Ask

Creating a financial plan for retirement goals is difficult to determine with great accuracy, in part because these goals may lay up to 50 years in the future. Your assumptions, goals, hopes, and expectations, as well as rates of inflation and your returns on investments are far from certain.

Below is a list of the kinds of questions you should consider to get a realistic idea of what you will need during retirement. The list may seem endless, but each of these factors will have an impact on your current savings:

  1. Age at which you want to retire (either completely or partially)
  2. The kind of lifestyle you’d like to live while retired
  3. Where you’d like to live during retirement
  4. Whom you will live with
  5. Spouse’s retirement goals and dreams
  6. Estimated expenses during retirement
  7. Large expenditures that you plan to make, such as travel
  8. Whether you’ll work during retirement
  9. How long you think you’ll live
  10. How quickly you think inflation will grow
  11. Your estimates for what return you will get on your investments
  12. How much of a financial cushion you want to leave yourself in case of unforeseen problems/calamities
  13. If you will own your home
  14. How much money you’d like to leave behind after death

Estimating Your Expenses During Retirement

Your living expenses after you retire are one element of your financial goals that can be estimated fairly accurately. To help estimate your expenses during retirement, think about your needs in the following stages of your retirement: early, middle, and late.

Early years

  • Keep in mind you may need more money in the early years of retirement.
  • Typically, newly retired persons spend more money than those that have been retired for a few years due to travel, recreation, or care for elderly parents.

Middle years

  • The second and usually longest phase of retirement is a time in which you (and your spouse) have "settled down."
  • During these years, you may consider issues such as relocation and decreasing your spending.
  • Budgeting becomes more important.

Later years

  • Medical expenses can be quite large.
  • Underestimating your expenses in this third phase of retirement is a common mistake.

The rule of thumb for professional retirement planners is that most people will need 70-90% of the income they were receiving before they retired to maintain the same standard of living.

Obviously, a lot of factors--where you live, what you want to do--nfluence this figure. For example, for most of us, rent or mortgage payments consume between 15-35% of our gross incomes. Remove this expense, and the monthly income you need in retirement falls.

Are You Saving Enough?

Even if you haven’t started saving for your retirement, you have some retirement assets. The difference between the financial resources you want to have and what you already have is the gap you’re trying to fill.

Where do these funds come from?

  • Social Security
  • Other defined benefit plans like pensions
  • Existing savings
  • Possible inheritance

You can learn more about Social Security and Pensions and estimate how much money you are likely to receive from them.

This Saving for Retirement Tool takes into account what you already have (such as Social Security) and your retirement goals to:

  • Evaluate whether or not your current savings will be enough to reach your goals
  • Calculate the changes (if any) you will need to make in your savings to meet your retirement goals.

The Effects of Inflation on Your Retirement

The value of
$100,000 over time
with 4% annual



Inflation is the increase in the cost of living, expressed as a percentage increase over the previous year's prices. This sounds harmless enough and happens slowly enough that we usually can’t perceive it happening.

However, inflation is probably the single biggest threat to meeting your retirement goals.

Even very small changes in the inflation rate can make a significant difference in the amount of money you will need to pay for your living expenses during retirement.

A little inflation is normal. In recent years, the annual inflation rate has been in the 2-4% range. But even these small percentages (much less than the 10-12% that the United States experienced in the late 1970s) can change prices dramatically over the years because prices grow like a compounding investment.

How will this level of inflation affect your retirement financial planning? It depends on the type of retirement account

  • For Social Security, pensions, and other defined benefit plans, inflation has little or no effect because their benefits increase with the cost of living.

  • For other types of retirement accounts--401(k)s, IRAs, real estate, bonds, etc.--inflation effectively erodes the return you get on your investment. If you get a 6% return and there’s a 4% rate of inflation, your real return is only 2%.

To gauge the effect that taxes inflation will have on your retirement savings, use this How will taxes and Infational Impact My Savings Over Time Tool.

 Retirement Goals

 Retirement Accounts


 Retirement Years


 Early & Semi-Retirement


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