How much money should a 26 year old have saved up? Is there somewhere that I can compare against online?



For ages 25-34:

  • 70% saved less than $25k
  • 12% were between $25k-$50k
  • 9% were between $50k-$100k
  • 5% were between $100k-$250k
  • 4% were above $250k.

Obviously that's a huge range, and a 26 year old would at the very low end, but I would say anywhere near $25,000 is a ton.

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The most important thing is not to tell yourself "I'll save more later in my career when I have more disposable income," because of two factors.

1) You will get raises over your career, but unless you make it big, it will never really feel like you have extra money. You may double or triple your salary over a career, but it usually happens in small increments which your lifestyle tends to adjust upwards to meet even though it doesn't feel like it.

2) Later in your career you may have more money to save, but now the commodity you have is time. Your total savings at retirement are going to be influenced in a massive way by both of these factors. A good strategy is save SOMETHING early in your career even if it feels like an insignificant amount. Then save larger amounts later in your career when you are earning more, but have less time for your investments to grow and less tolerance for high risk/high growth investments.

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    Fidelity has this little program to automatically increase your payroll deductions by 1% a year, presumably to help people sneak themselves into saving. – user296 Feb 25 '10 at 20:29
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    Also: Assuming, say, a 4% growth rate (after inflation, so real growth rate), the stock market will double your account's value every 18 years. So savings when you're young counts double compared to saving when you're middle-aged... at least. – user296 Feb 25 '10 at 20:42

I don't have a reference, but I think it depends on when you entered the workforce:

  • If you finished school at age 24, your primary goals are to pay down expensive debt and to save up enough for a down payment. So essentially not much. Maybe $5k to $10k at the most.

  • On the other hand if you entered the workforce at age 20, with no debts and no significant expenses, it should have been easy to sock away 20% of your income for 6 years, so $40k to $50k would be reasonable.

The difference is that the first person's income earning potential should be higher, so eventually they'd be able to make up the difference and pass them.

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    +1, the other main factors would be whether you rent or buy, and whether you have kids or not. Both affect your ability to save. – Rich Seller Feb 18 '10 at 11:08

Answering this question is a great way to gauge how you're doing towards saving for retirement now. But of course what matters more than this snapshot in time is how much you contribute down the line.

It may be wise to try to estimate how much you will want saved by the time you retire. Then try to calculate how much you would need to save in order to hit that mark.

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  • That sounds great and all, but how does a 20-something have the slightest idea how much he wants to save by retirement? I've heard rules of thumb regarding living on 80% of pre-retirement income and what not. However, speaking as a 20-something I'm not sure how I would know whether that is remotely accurate or even how much income I'm likely to have at the end of my career. – Michael McGowan May 3 '11 at 18:58
  • @Michael McGowan I actually asked that question here: money.stackexchange.com/q/7616/2890 ... There is some useful info there, but if anyone has more input, I would welcome additional answers. – Stainsor May 4 '11 at 15:33

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