We Asked People About Retirement Savings And The Answers Will Shock You
With all that’s going on in the world, it’s important to remember more than ever that taking our futures seriously is crucial. Still, not all of us know about saving up for retirement let alone ensuring that we’re staying on the right track when it comes to squirreling our finances away. Recently, a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute revealed that a woman who is 25-years-old and saving for retirement would have to set aside double the amount of money she’s saving if stock market returns take a turn for the worst in the next few decades.
For advice on saving, we turned to Reddit and found when and how people started.
Check out the answers below.
“If you are in a position that you have 401k and IRA both maxed (and HSA if you are eligible), I recommend picking up a copy of the The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins. Or even if you don’t have all those accounts already maxed because I sure do not. I just finished reading it, it’s an informative book in plain English to get you started on the hows and whys of investing outside of tax sheltered retirement accounts.” – InternationalDivide3
“If I could upvote this twice, I would. Love that book. Completely changes our approach to investing for retirement.” – beloise
“I am going to read that book! Thank you for the suggestion.” – heysunflowerstate
“Thank you so much! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while.” – emmy__lou
“Single, no kids, no parents to support, age 55.5.
I didn’t start until my first post-graduate school job (assistant professor, 1997, age 33). I’m now federal employee @ ~ $180K. I started at 5% to get the match and both the percentage and my salary have increased. As of today, I contribute the full $19,500 and get a 5% match and have a combined $750K. I expect a minimum of $1M (probably more) at age 64. I also get a federal pension and social security and will have no student loans and a paid-off NoVA townhouse by age 64.
When I retire – ~ age 64 ~ I plan to sell the townhouse (~$450K), buy another home in a college town (PA through NM, location TBD) – preferably with room / in-law suite to rent to a grad student. Use the difference in sales prices to set up account to fund utilities / property taxes / repairs, use the rental income to cover upgrades, use social security to cover health insurance, use pension to cover living expenses / transportation, and use 401K to cover travel and entertainment (until it becomes long-term care).
Of course, the best laid plans …” –ADB_BWG
“I contributed to my 401k immediately with my first job out of college at 22, consistently contributed since (now 35) and this will be my 5th year maxing out the pretax contribution (19,500 this year). I always did enough to get the maximum company match, I was lucky to have a few promotions over the years that allowed me to get to the point I am now.” –thighgaap84
“For those who max your 401k, what’s your salary? I think I can do it this year on my salary without feeling it too much but just wondering. EDIT – well, shit, I’ve made well over 60k for over four years. So I can definitely be maxing. Whoops.”- workthrowa
“I started maxing my 401k when I started making ~60k/year. Before then I only contributed enough to get the company match. What really tipped the scales for me was
- using the smart asset paycheck calculator. This has always been very accurate for me down to a couple dollars when I want to see what a raise or contribution change means for my net paycheck; and
- doing the math to understand the tax implications. It was super empowering to see that with our budget at the time, I was able to afford doubling down on retirement. Before then I just assumed that it would be a hardship and wasn’t even willing to look into the math or the output of my choice.
“I didn’t start making mine until I was over $100k, but I wish I had sooner. We also starting maxing my husband’s at the same time since our joint income was enough to carry it. His salary was around $60k at that point but two earners makes a big difference.” –weasel_stoat
“$174k (I went from making about $82.5, and immediately maxed it out). Really wish i would have done more, sooner. I probably could not have maxed it out, but at least more.” –Aryne13
“Cost of living definitely makes a difference here; I did not max out my 401k when I was on a 60k salary because I live in NYC. And while I max it out now, when my expenses increase (e.g., if I have kids), I may not be able to do so even if my salary stays the same (and I’m at the point where I don’t expect it to rise significantly anymore).” –MerelyMisha
“Started maxing when I made $47k but was used to living like a college student. That money has grown big time. So glad I started early.” – chicksin206
“I started contributing after I graduated from law school (am 33 now) and, because of that never “missed the money” that I took from my check. I contributed to a employer sponsored 401(k) and later started contributing to a Back-Door Roth IRA.
- I chose a traditional 401(k) as I expect to be making less money in retirement than while working.
- I chose a Back-Door Roth because straight traditional – or Roth – contributions are not deductible/permissible at my income level.
- I contribute the maximum each year (plus our retirement plan permits for “After-Tax” (not the same as Roth) contributions, so I add a couple grand there. I receive a 7.5% match.”- PersonalFinanceD
“As soon as I started my first job in highschool. I was mainly saving for university but I also put a bit away in an RRSP just to get started, which my parents suggested. It wasn’t much ($500, probably, throughout highschool.) But it normalized retirement savings as a thing to do from my very first paycheque and meant that when I got my first “big girl job” I wasn’t overwhelmed by the idea of having to research and open an account, etc.” –PracticalShine
“I’m cackling at your younger self opinion of a 401k, I wish it were true!!
I did something similar, contributed 6% ish until 26 when I switched jobs for the first time and got a decent pay bump. 2019 was the first year I maxed out at 28, and plan to keep that going.
For investing, I’ve been using a financial adviser to manage mutual funds since 26 as well. We revisit my goals once or twice a year to adjust contributions and investment allocation. It’s fairly conservative and right now am contributing large sums when my savings account gets high, I want to look into other options next time we meet to maybe deposit monthly. But I’ll probably listen to what he suggests.” –jamz512
“Y’all are so good! I started actually trying to save when I was 27ish and I’m 31 now. I focused on liquid savings for a long time though and in the last few years pivoted those good habits to retirement accounts.” –kamikatzie
“For anyone who thinks they don’t make enough money to invest in their retirement, please know that putting even as little as $50 (or even like $25) a month is better than not doing it at all. Things like compound growth with interest are your friend and will make that tiny amount of money balloon up over the course of a few decades.
I first moved to NYC out of college and made barely anything. I thought I could not afford to put money into my 401k let alone a Roth IRA. I started with my standard company match and then eventually bumped it up a few percentage points and hardly noticed the salary deductions. Fast forward a few years and I’m making more money and have exponentially more money in my retirement accounts because I bothered to start at 22. It’ll be even more by the time I retire. I have a fat amount of money in these accounts now because I put just a little money away as a naive fresh college grad.
Educate yourself as much as possible! Watch YouTube investing gurus, listen to finance podcasts, learning about this stuff isn’t hard if you’re open to listening!” –alum38
“I’m in basically the same situation and trajectory as you!
I’ve contributed at least the employer matching to my 401k (4-6%) since graduating college (22). I didn’t get super serious about it until maybe 26 or so, which coincided with a job switch where I got a sizable raise. I started maxing out my Roth IRA that year and increased my 401k contributions. This is the first year where I’ll max both out. I probably could have maxed out my 401k earlier but I had been saving for graduate school and a house downpayment.
Honestly I chose 401k because that’s just what my first job offered, and Roth IRA because I had a decent tax refund one year and decided to be responsible that year and put it towards retirement.
If you haven’t seen the r/personalfinance flowchart (https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/wiki/commontopics#wiki_the_flowchart) that’s a good resource! Basically it depends what your goals are. Personally I’m saving for shorter term goals still, but the next steps if you’re trying to save more for retirement are usually HSA, 529, mega backdoor Roth, or other tax advantaged accounts!” –mdengineer4
“I’m Australian so our system is slightly different.
The government requires your employer to put 9.5% of your salary into a superannuation account for you. So if you earn $70,000 then $6,650 is put in an account for you.
I started making additional contributions (an extra $5k per year) at 25 and will do so until I buy a house because of the power of compound interest.” –currypuff63
“I started contributing to a 401k when I started my first real job after college graduation (age 23). I contributed 10% and that job matched 100% of the first 5% if I remember correctly. I’ve continued contributing 10% every since. So as my salary grows, so do my 401k contributions.
Now that my husband and I have finished paying off our student debt, we need to revisit our plan for investments and may choose to max out our 401k contributions. We haven’t hashed that out yet though.” – Reddit user
“I saved a tiny bit for retirement in my first post-college job. I delayed seriously saving for retirement until I was 28 (ouch) because I was in grad school then spent two years in temporary low-ish paying (but prestigious!) jobs that didn’t offer benefits. (I didn’t figure out how to open my own 401(k) or IRA, which I now regret). My spouse also delayed saving for the same reason (grad school) until he was 34 (double ouch).
For the past 3.5 years, we have both maxed out our retirement contributions and invested all of our spare money in the interest of catching up on retirement. We’re now expecting a kid, so our extra investment will slow down, but we do expect to continue maxing out our retirement contributions.” –PutridMarionberry
“I started with a Roth IRA pretty young – I think I was 18 the first year I contributed. I didn’t start a 401k until I was 28 because grad school takes forever, and I’ve been putting money in there at a pretty good clip. The funny thing about compound interest is that my Roth IRA is worth more than my 401k, even though the actual contribution amount was so much less.” –weasel_stoat
“Started contributing and maxing my Roth IRA around 22 and started contributing to my employers simple IRA after I graduated at 23. I have been at my current job for 4.5 years and contribute 10% with a 5 % match. I have yet to max it out but my company deposits profit sharing into it which helps immensely. I wish I had started earlier.” – fozhoe
“After finishing residency where I was working 6 days a week 14 hours a day and devoted one paycheck to rent, ~ 29 yo.”- sushdances
“I opened my Roth IRA when I was 23 (have been maxing it out for three years) and just opened my own solo 401(k) for my freelance income at 26 years old. I don’t get any benefits through my full time job, so I’m figuring all of this out on my own.” –Comfortable_Salad
“19 when I opened my IRA, but 26 when I actually started working towards maxing out contributions.” –Shannoniggy
“Very very late to the game but I’m in a position where I will get a pension (probably 80k a year?) and minimally contribute to a 403b. Maybe this is super naive of me but I’m really banking on the pension for retirement.” –gpc31
“I’ve saved between 5-15% of my salary in a 401k since I first started working in a job that offered one when I was about 22. I took a couple of years off retirement savings due to underemployment/not having a 401k, but whenever I’ve had a job that offered one, I’ve been saving. I’ve never maxed out my 401k because I’ve always lived in very HCOL areas and it hasn’t seemed reasonable to cut that much of my salary. Right now I’m saving 7%, because I’m trying to build up more liquid savings for a house down payment.” –butterwerkbatch
“I started contributing at age 23 but have not been able to max contributions (I’m 31 now). I have about $57k in my 401k and also have an IRA separate from my employer 401k. Hoping to wipe out debt this year and hopefully max out both next year!”- ny2017
“Growing up my parents really pushed the savings and retirement contributions. I didn’t fully understand it, but I put money in my savings account and then into my 401K when I was eligible. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I fully understood the concept and thought of money in an entirely different way. Now my husband and I max out our employer retirement accounts and are working to get our Roth’s maxed out too. I’m in my mid 30’s now and we are looking at early retirement. I wish I could go back and educate myself in my early 20’s!”- InherentlyFeminine
“I’m 26 now, but starting at 25, $1,050 has been invested in my retirement fund per month – half comes from me, and the other half is from my employer. I have a DB pension and the contribution increases whenever I make more. Come spring of this year, $1,300 will be put towards my retirement every month.
Honestly I had no choice in the matter. The pension is apart of my work benefits and participation is mandatory. Not that I’m complaining – it is seriously golden.” –shehasntseenkentucky
“At my first “real” job, i started to contribute to the 401k at the level the company matched at. I essentially did this for 10 plus years, maybe going a little over, but not much…And never really thought to put in any more. The last two or so years, though, i would increase a percentage of my contribution with ever COL increase I received.
In that 10 years, though, I paid off my student loans, and put a downpayment towards a home. For the past two years (going on 3), I have now maxed out the 401k, and put more money into other investment accounts, this is 100% because of a significant salary increase. I was ignorant in my twenties, had no clue that I should be contributing more, and with my salary, I was focused on saving for a downpayment and really, nothing more. I really wish, i would have contributed more. I have about $150k in one account, and $30k in another, at 35, and this could have been so much more…” –Aryne13
“I’ve always been more of a saver than a spender, but I don’t think I got serious about it until I was 32. Until then, I saved primarily in bank accounts, stacked cash in an IRA but didn’t invest it, etc.” –Kindly_Sprinkles
“I’ve had an IRA since I was 18, but I didn’t really start saving for retirement until I got my first real job at 23. I just did our taxes and we owe money for the first time ever and I also learned that we’re over the threshold for saving in an IRA, so I think I’ll put more money into my 401k and work toward maxing that out.” –ancientbluehaired
“When I graduated I made $50k, was $25k in debt, and contributed 10% to retirement. This was 2015.
I think I bumped it up to 12% when I was done with my loans and making ~70k.” –MaotheMao21
“To phrase it the way that makes me sound pretty good: as soon as I had access to a 401(k) I started contributing almost $200 a paycheck.
To phrase it the way that makes me sound much worse: I didn’t start saving for retirement until I was 25. And closer to 26 than 25.
Took me over six months out of college to get a fulltime job, then I lost that job six months in and it took me a year and a half to get another. In between I made barely enough to cover my student loan payments and my car loan and insurance.
Nobody ever told me I could, and should, put money in an IRA while I was in college. I had at least a few hundred dollars to spare then that I could have saved.” –walkingonairglow
“Right out of college. I was making $32k in the late 90s and contributed up to the match of my 401k (it was 3%) more than 25 years later, that year worth about $70k of my retirement portfolio now.
The moral of the story is, no matter how little your have, time is in your side when you start early.
Do the best that you can!”- Reddit users
“Not American, but last year I started paying maybe 3% into a pension scheme, there was no employer match so it was hard to justify paying in more when we were trying to buy our first home. We’ve bought that house and I’ve also moved job, now I pay 5% and my employer pays 8%.
My fiancé and I are late 20s. We’re getting married soon (on a budget), we have a mortgage and very small car loan but no cc or education debt. We’re not planning on trying for kids for a few years so maybe this is the right time to plough money into our pensions before we’ve got college funds etc to pay into.” –dickbuttscompanion
Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org