I Don’t Have Enough Saved for Retirement. Now What?

Our editor-in-chief 'makes cents' of saving for retirement if you’re older

Illustration of a coconut with a straw in it

The Balance/Alice Morgan

Dear Kristin,

I am 58 years old and my spouse is 62. He will begin collecting Social Security in September of this year.  He will collect $1,900 per month. I am a registered nurse making $85,000 a year and I want to work as long as I possibly can. We have approximately $300,000 in retirement savings and $50,000 in cash. We are debt free. We own a home in Philadelphia that might be worth $200,000 give or take. I save 10% of my salary every year through a 401(k). However, I have a nagging feeling that we are way behind where we should be and worry constantly that we will be destitute in retirement. Any advice? 



Dear Brian,

This is a reasonable fear to have and you aren’t alone. Studies show that most Americans don’t have enough saved for their retirement. Even if you and your spouse don’t have enough money saved, there are still ways that you can boost your retirement funds. But first, let's see if you are in that situation in the first place.

Given that most people will have fewer bills as they age because they have paid off loans, mortgages, etc. you should plan to replace as much as 80% of your salary with your retirement savings. You haven’t shared your spouse’s current income, but earning $85,000 a year, your “retirement income” should be as much as $68,000 annually. Your retirement savings will continue to grow if the funds are in investment accounts, but if you were to liquidate the $350,000 that you’ve already set aside, that’s roughly five years of retirement funds you have available.

But how much you need saved for retirement isn’t only based on how much you earn, but rather, how much you spend. A simple way to project how much you need for retirement would be to calculate how much you currently spend, and multiply that by 25. That number tells you how much you need to have saved so that you can draw down 4% of your retirement funds each year over 30 years. 

Based on how much you currently have saved, drawing down 4% each year means you’ll have $14,000, or a little more than $1,000 a month. It’s good that you are both debt free and own your home, but with the cost of groceries, utilities, and just about everything else on the rise, that might not be enough for you both.

But don’t panic. At your and your spouse’s age, you still have some time to increase your retirement savings. So what can you do now? Consider maxing out, or increasing your 401(k). This year, you can contribute a maximum of $20,500. Since you’re over the age of 50, you’re also allowed to make additional “catch up” contributions, as much as $6,500 a year, if your plan allows. Suppose you plan to work until 70, that gives you another 12 years to max out your 401(k). Even if you can’t match the limits, if possible, increasing your contribution could be a start.

You haven’t mentioned what other retirement accounts you might have, but you can also open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), and also maximize the funds you place there ($7,000 for someone your age in 2022). While traditional IRAs limit contributions after age 70 1/2, Roth IRAs have no such age limits.

By increasing your 401(k) contributions and contributing to a Roth IRA, you could have an additional $306,000 saved by the time you turn 70—and that’s without taking the power of compound interest into account, or any contributions your employer might make. That number becomes bigger if you continue to work and make Roth IRA contributions through your 70s.

You should also take a look at your retirement accounts and make any changes as necessary. Your investment strategy might have changed greatly since you were younger, and you want to make sure you are comfortable with the level of risk you have in your current portfolio. 

By making some small changes, you’ll be better prepared, which should alleviate some of the fears you have about your retirement. 

Good luck!


If you have questions about money, Kristin is here to help. Submit an anonymous question and she may answer it in a future column.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Federal Reserve. “Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 - May 2021.”

  2. Internal Revenue Service. “Retirement Topics - 401(k) and Profit-Sharing Plan Contribution Limits.”

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