How much each generation has saved in retirement

Jan 24, 2024

Financial planning

How much each generation has saved in retirement
How much each generation has saved in retirement

Imagine yourself on a sun-drenched beach, immersed in your favorite book, and enjoying a tropical beverage. With retirement in full swing, there's no rush, no obligations – just pure relaxation. It sounds like the epitome of an ideal lifestyle, doesn't it? This lifestyle is possible for you too, but takes planning and won’t just ‘happen’.


The lifestyle you have is tied to what you’ve been able to save. For most, it’s somewhere between the amount they want vs. need.. In this article, we'll explore the retirement savings amounts across different age ranges. 


How Much Each Generation Has Saved In Retirement 


Take a look at this Northwestern Mutual online survey of 2,740 U.S. adults conducted in 2023. The chart below shows how much each age group has saved for retirement compared to how much they've actually saved. The results hammer home the importance of long-term retirement planning.



The actual amount of money saved for retirement by age range:


The average amount of money saved for retirement for all ages is $89,300. Here's a breakdown of how much has been saved by age range. These amounts are only what’s saved in retirement accounts and not in outside assets like rental properties. 


20s: $35,800

30s: $67,400

40s: $77,400

50s: $110,900

60s: $112,500

70s: $113,900


Now let's review how much people in the survey think they need to save for retirement by age range. 


The expected amount of money needed for retirement by age:


$1.3 million is the expected amount of money needed for retirement for all age ranges. Let's now break down the expected amounts by age range. 


20s: $1.3 million for a difference of $1.262 million

30s: $1.4 million for a difference of $1.333 million

40s: $1.3 million for a difference of $1.222 million

50s: $1.6 million for a difference of $1.49 million

60s: $968,000 for a difference of $855,500

70s: $936,000 for a difference of $822,100


Key Observations From The Retirement Expectations Survey


Here are five main takeaways about retirement from this survey. 


1) Retirement shortages at every age group


Unfortunately, even those in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are still short on retirement funds compared to what they think they need in retirement. The disconnect between want versus reality is one of the reasons why we started Plenty. Small changes in saving and investing can make big differences over long time frames. And there’s no better time than in your 30’s and 40’s.


2) The expected amounts for retirement don't increase by age


We thought the expected amount of money needed for retirement would increase as you get older, accounting for inflation, growing desires, and growing needs. That wasn’t the case.


Individuals in their 40s expected $1.3 million for retirement, which is $100,000 less than what those in their 30s expected. Meanwhile, individuals in their 50s thought they’d need $1.6 million for retirement, a big increase.


3) Americans in their 50s may be more anxious about retirement 


The increase in the perceived need for $1.6 million in retirement during your 50s, compared to $1.3 million in your 40s, suggests that people are more worried about having enough. With only a decade remaining until the conventional retirement age, individuals in their 50s often feel stressed about retirement.


Unfortunately, the average amount saved by survey respondents in their 50s for retirement is only $110,900. 


For those with children, the 50s is also the time when many parents grapple with the financial demands of paying for college. There is also the responsibility of caring for aging parents. It's only natural for individuals in the sandwich generation to be more stressed, especially when they’re trying to meet their own needs.


4) Not much financial progress after your 50s 


Upon reaching your 50s, the survey indicates that it’s hard to make more progress, even when they feel the pressure.


Individuals in their 50s have $110,900 saved for retirement, followed by $112,500 for those in their 60s and $113,900 for those in their 70s. It seems as though Americans find themselves stuck in neutral once they reach the age of 50.


The minimal progress in retirement savings over thirty years is discouraging. And perhaps, that’s why there’s such a strong drop in retirement expectations as individuals get closer to retirement and are forced to confront reality.


We suspect that the stagnation in retirement savings from one's 50s to 70s is tied to a psychological shift to decumulation (the approach of figuring out how to use what you have, to make it last into retirement). Once someone has retired, individuals often sell stocks and other assets to cover living expenses. Most individuals seek to not dip into their wealth much in their 70's, because of uncertainty around future needs.


5) We don't need as much money to live a comfortable retirement life


Individuals in their 60s responded that they only needed $968,000 to retire, a significant decrease of $632,000 or 40% less than what they expected they needed in their 50s. What could explain this shift?


Actually retiring likely played a role. It's common to overestimate retirement needs due to a fear of not having enough. However, worst-case fears often don't materialize.


Consider this: many individuals aim to save 25% of after-tax income for retirement. Once you retire, you won’t be saving for retirement anymore… you’ll have retired. What you actually need to cover expenses will actually be lower than when you needed to earn pre-retirement.


Another factor contributing to the lower expected amount needed for retirement could be the start of Social Security benefits. For those without debt and who own their home, living off the average Social Security benefit of ~$22,884 per person in 2024 is manageable for most Americans. If there's a partner, you’d have a combined $45k+ in Social Security benefits.


Individuals in their 60s may also be supplementing their retirement income through part-time work. Given increasing lifespans, many in their 60s may opt to stay active by engaging in consulting, teaching, and other side hustles.


Related post: Investing 101: A beginner's guide to building wealth


Let's Close The Retirement Gap


Aspiring to have $1.3 million saved for retirement is a reasonable goal. With a 4% rate of return or withdrawal rate, you could potentially spend $52,000 per year gross once you decide to step away from the workforce. It's worth noting that due to inflation, the required amount for a comfortable retirement is likely to continue rising.


However, according to the Northwestern Mutual survey, there seems to be a moment where individuals struggle to consistently save and invest for their futures. It’s not uncommon for couples to believe they’re saving more than they actually are. Especially when there are important tax-advantaged retirement accounts (like 401(k)s or IRAs) that offer tax savings for contributions, it’s important to track where the money is going.


Plenty’s cashflow product was built just for this: so you can easily see how much you’re saving and investing together, and independently.


Consistently investing $20,000 annually to a 401(k) for 10 years at an 8% rate of return leads to an estimated balance of $313,000. Within 10 years, you’d have a retirement balance higher than every average age in the survey. Over 30 years with the same contribution and returns, your 401(k) balance would grow to an impressive $2.45 million.


You can’t change the past, but you can take control of your future. And at Plenty - we aim to make that easy. Track your saving and investing, or open up an IRA today. The easier it is to track your finances, the better positioned you'll be to take the steps for a more comfortable retirement.


- Team Plenty

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This information is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute investment advice or any other kind of professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. Before taking action based on any such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not endorse any third parties referenced within the article. Market and economic views are subject to change without notice and may be untimely when presented here. Do not infer or assume that any securities, sectors or markets described in this article were or will be profitable. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is a possibility of loss. Historical or hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.



Plenty was founded to democratize access to financial products and tools that accelerate wealth building. Plenty Financial and affiliated entities. (“Plenty Financial”) provide a web, mobile, personal financial management and educational platform to consumers; some of these tools are freely accessible to all consumers, others require a fee-based subscription. Advisory services are provided in the form of software-first financial planning and investment advisory services for fee-based Subscribers. Plenty Financial RIA, LLC is an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor. All investments made are legally owned by you. Investing is inherently risky and Plenty does not guarantee positive performance. Investments are held in accounts at BNY Mellon | Pershings, the world's largest securities servicing company and are SIPC insured. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.


Brokerage services are provided by Atomic Brokerage LLC "Atomic Brokerage", member FINRA and SIPC. Clearing and custody services are provided by Brokerage firm BNY Mellon Pershing, member SIPC. Plenty Financial RIA, LLC has a relationship with Atomic Brokerage to manage and execute investments on behalf of customers. Subadvisory services are offered through Atomic Invest LLC ("Atomic Invest"), an SEC-registered investment advisor, member SIPC. Atomic Invest was formerly known as Helium Advisors LLC.


Return data used in the interactive tool are hypothetical performance data which contains inherent limitations and is not a substitute for actual investment returns derived from a live portfolio. There are numerous risk factors related to trading and markets which cannot be fully accounted for when depicting Hypothetical Performance. Consequently, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of principal may occur. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE. This site/application has been prepared by Plenty and is not intended to be (and may not be relied on in any manner as) legal, tax, investment, accounting or other advice or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities of any investment product or any investment advisory service. The information contained in this site/application is superseded by, and is qualified in its entirety by, such offering materials. This site/application may contain proprietary, trade-secret, confidential and commercially sensitive information.


By accessing this site, you signify your agreement with and understanding of the following Terms of Use and Legal Information pertaining to both this site and any material in it. Plenty owns and maintains this site. No act of downloading or otherwise copying from this site will transfer title to any software or material at this site to you. Anything that you transmit to this site becomes the property of Plenty, may be used by Plenty for any lawful purpose, and is further subject to disclosure as deemed appropriate by Plenty, including to any legal or regulatory authority to which Plenty is subject. Plenty reserves all rights with respect to copyright ownership of all material at this site, and will enforce such rights to the full extent of the law.


Plenty was founded to democratize access to financial products and tools that accelerate wealth building. Plenty Financial and affiliated entities. (“Plenty Financial”) provide a web, mobile, personal financial management and educational platform to consumers; some of these tools are freely accessible to all consumers, others require a fee-based subscription. Advisory services are provided in the form of software-first financial planning and investment advisory services for fee-based Subscribers. Plenty Financial RIA, LLC is an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor. All investments made are legally owned by you. Investing is inherently risky and Plenty does not guarantee positive performance. Investments are held in accounts at BNY Mellon | Pershings, the world's largest securities servicing company and are SIPC insured. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.


Brokerage services are provided by Atomic Brokerage LLC "Atomic Brokerage", member FINRA and SIPC. Clearing and custody services are provided by Brokerage firm BNY Mellon Pershing, member SIPC. Plenty Financial RIA, LLC has a relationship with Atomic Brokerage to manage and execute investments on behalf of customers. Subadvisory services are offered through Atomic Invest LLC ("Atomic Invest"), an SEC-registered investment advisor, member SIPC. Atomic Invest was formerly known as Helium Advisors LLC.


Return data used in the interactive tool are hypothetical performance data which contains inherent limitations and is not a substitute for actual investment returns derived from a live portfolio. There are numerous risk factors related to trading and markets which cannot be fully accounted for when depicting Hypothetical Performance. Consequently, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of principal may occur. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE. This site/application has been prepared by Plenty and is not intended to be (and may not be relied on in any manner as) legal, tax, investment, accounting or other advice or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities of any investment product or any investment advisory service. The information contained in this site/application is superseded by, and is qualified in its entirety by, such offering materials. This site/application may contain proprietary, trade-secret, confidential and commercially sensitive information.


By accessing this site, you signify your agreement with and understanding of the following Terms of Use and Legal Information pertaining to both this site and any material in it. Plenty owns and maintains this site. No act of downloading or otherwise copying from this site will transfer title to any software or material at this site to you. Anything that you transmit to this site becomes the property of Plenty, may be used by Plenty for any lawful purpose, and is further subject to disclosure as deemed appropriate by Plenty, including to any legal or regulatory authority to which Plenty is subject. Plenty reserves all rights with respect to copyright ownership of all material at this site, and will enforce such rights to the full extent of the law.


Plenty was founded to democratize access to financial products and tools that accelerate wealth building. Plenty Financial and affiliated entities. (“Plenty Financial”) provide a web, mobile, personal financial management and educational platform to consumers; some of these tools are freely accessible to all consumers, others require a fee-based subscription. Advisory services are provided in the form of software-first financial planning and investment advisory services for fee-based Subscribers. Plenty Financial RIA, LLC is an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor. All investments made are legally owned by you. Investing is inherently risky and Plenty does not guarantee positive performance. Investments are held in accounts at BNY Mellon | Pershings, the world's largest securities servicing company and are SIPC insured. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there is no assurance that the investment will provide positive performance over any period of time.


Brokerage services are provided by Atomic Brokerage LLC "Atomic Brokerage", member FINRA and SIPC. Clearing and custody services are provided by Brokerage firm BNY Mellon Pershing, member SIPC. Plenty Financial RIA, LLC has a relationship with Atomic Brokerage to manage and execute investments on behalf of customers. Subadvisory services are offered through Atomic Invest LLC ("Atomic Invest"), an SEC-registered investment advisor, member SIPC. Atomic Invest was formerly known as Helium Advisors LLC.


Return data used in the interactive tool are hypothetical performance data which contains inherent limitations and is not a substitute for actual investment returns derived from a live portfolio. There are numerous risk factors related to trading and markets which cannot be fully accounted for when depicting Hypothetical Performance. Consequently, future returns are not guaranteed, and a loss of principal may occur. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE. This site/application has been prepared by Plenty and is not intended to be (and may not be relied on in any manner as) legal, tax, investment, accounting or other advice or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities of any investment product or any investment advisory service. The information contained in this site/application is superseded by, and is qualified in its entirety by, such offering materials. This site/application may contain proprietary, trade-secret, confidential and commercially sensitive information.


By accessing this site, you signify your agreement with and understanding of the following Terms of Use and Legal Information pertaining to both this site and any material in it. Plenty owns and maintains this site. No act of downloading or otherwise copying from this site will transfer title to any software or material at this site to you. Anything that you transmit to this site becomes the property of Plenty, may be used by Plenty for any lawful purpose, and is further subject to disclosure as deemed appropriate by Plenty, including to any legal or regulatory authority to which Plenty is subject. Plenty reserves all rights with respect to copyright ownership of all material at this site, and will enforce such rights to the full extent of the law.