I'm 35. I have $50k in an IRA. Using an online IRA calculator, I find that I'll have less than $900k at retirement, assuming I work until I'm 67, and I continue to make the full contribution to the IRA. And assuming a fair (6%) rate of return.

I'm a computer programmer. I probably can't depend on the good income I have now until I'm 67 - programmers tend not to get hired as they grow older. I don't have kids, and I don't want any. Nor would I want them to front the burden of an 80 year old man whose retirement savings has run out.

How can I possibly retire? The reason I'm asking this is, I know I'm not the only one in these shoes. Some say in the US (where I live), the majority of people have no retirement savings. I'm ahead there, but it still seems it won't be enough.

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    That's fair, just means you need to plan accordingly, many people bank on a paid-off home in retirement to significantly reduce their monthly expenses.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 19:59
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    Many years you don't have any major repairs, some years you have some big ones, a roof every 20+ years on average, etc. In my experience the average cost of keeping up homes is far less than cost of rent, even when purchased with financing (anecdotal evidence from my experience as an owner/landlord of multiple homes). In many places the property is appreciating as well, which makes it easier to come out ahead. It's no guarantee, of course, but home ownership is pretty likely to be beneficial over the long-term. Moving around a lot makes it less attractive, obviously.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 21:08
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    What is your current income, and how much are you currently putting away for retirement? It seems to me that you should easily be able to put away quite a bit from this point on, even if you are behind a little now.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 21:47
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    This is a very valid question. Not sure who down voted it and for what!
    – edocetirwi
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 15:00
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    @horsehair Have you maxed your post tax options as well? While not as savvy as most folks here I've read that by building both pre & post tax retirement you can withdraw and not get hit as hard in retirement. The general point is can you save more but it's a thought.
    – Dano0430
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 19:30

6 Answers 6


By 2049 (your proposed retirement age), it is likely that the retirement age will be higher. From birth years of 1964 to 1970, the full retirement age increases by two months a year from 66 to 67. Assuming that that trend continues, full retirement age will be at least 69 by the time that you retire. That gives you both two more years to add money and two fewer years to support. Presuming you are a man, you can expect to live fifteen years after 69. Extreme range zero to thirty years.

You can currently add $15,500 a year to a 401k or similar tax advantaged system. That will increase your accumulation somewhat. Call it $2.5 million total with your IRA contributions added to the 401k.

At $2.5 million, if you can average a 4% return (more realistic as a steady income), that's $100,000 a year. That's without touching the principal, so it will last forever (absent something extreme like a Great Depression level event).

A house also offers tax and stability advantages, but if you don't want it then you don't.

  • What happens if I live the extreme of 30 years after? Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 20:16
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    @horsehair: See the word "forever" in the third paragraph. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 22:56
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    The trinity study offering the 4% safe withdrawal rate assumes a finite life. 99.9% chance to be dead by 110 or so. A 67 year old only needs 30 years of money, most of us don't even make 100. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 0:10
  • @JoeTaxpayer: But you do need to consider the... well, I guess "worse case" is the wrong term here, but suppose you are one of the few who (like my neighbor who was healthy & active at 100) do make it past their century mark.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:51
  • True, but my point is that 4% does not offer 'infinite' years. It tries to offer risk of zero dollars before dying. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:56

You don't mention your income. But this is key. In today's dollars, say you are making $60K. The $900K at 4% withdrawal rate, will give you $36K. But social security will also provide another $23K. That's a total $59K or near 100% replacement. On the other hand, if you are earning $100K, you are not saving enough. Absolute dollars matter far less than replacement rate.

  • The withdrawal rate would be how much of your IRA you withdraw each year, 4% (36k) gives you 25 years assuming no risk, but if still subjecting it to growth then could be more or less based on returns.
    – Hart CO
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 20:01
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    At 36, you should have far more than 1/2 a year's salary. But, you are young enough to adjust to a higher saving rate to better position yourself. I retired at 50, and recall that at 36, my wife and I had already saved 4X our annual income. It's time to pull the report from SSA.gov, and understand what you need to save to have your spending budget covered when you plan to retire. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 20:12

The maximum IRA contribution isn't enough to get you to a comfortable retirement. It was never intended to be. You're going to have to save more than that per year. You might be eligible for other sorts of tax-advantaged retirement plans depending on your job (401(k), SEP IRA, etc); beyond that, you just pay the taxes and save what's left, in some appropriate investment.

There's really only two ways to save more: earn more or spend less. If you want to share more about your income and expenses, people here might have more ideas about how to increase the one or cut the other.

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    According to these websites I've been visiting, something like 20% of Americans have anything saved at all for retirement. Are the streets going to be flooded with the elderly homeless in 40 years? Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 20:00
  • That's a separate question, which is probably beyond the scope of this site. This comment thread certainly isn't the place to discuss it. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 22:55
  • @horsehair This was actually asked a few months ago! money.stackexchange.com/questions/79065/…
    – user40002
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:13
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    @horse hair: That 20% number is a good example of how to lie while telling the exact truth. Just to keep the math simple, say all adult Americans are evenly distributed between ages 20 and 70. Then 20% are between 20 and 30, so mostly just getting started and not likely to have much in the way of assets. For instance, at 30-ish I was flat broke and living in my car, but now I'm rather more than comfortable.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 22:15

Many people rely in Social Security and Medicare in retirement, and have very low retirement income. They may take advantage of other programs that help with food, housing, and other costs.

A better picture is someone who has retirement savings and a paid-off house, living off Social Security income and interest from their retirement accounts. The house thing isn't crucial, but owning a home makes retiring on lower income much easier.

Having $900,000 in savings isn't so bad, whether it's enough depends on how you plan to live out your retirement. You might want to talk to a financial planner, to understand what you'll need to change now to afford the retirement you want.


You're not saving enough, because you're renting. Mortgage repayments are a form of saving, but rent isn't. You need to be putting away savings equal to the mortgage payments on the kind of house you might live in, in addition to your IRA.

  • This is the overwhelming issue the OP faces. Everything else is irrelevant.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:53

Whether you own or rent is largely irrelevant. It's a lifestyle choice. For some, owning a home makes more sense. For others, renting.

More important is how much your current and expected future lifestyle costs. Taken to the extreme, $900k will last roughly 50 years if your lifestyle only cost $18k/yr.

According to MMM, if you can save, say 64% of your income -- no matter what it is -- you can retire in 11 years.

First step is to determine what your current lifestyle costs you each year. It might be enlightening. Reducing costs now will have a compounding effect and you may be surprised on how little you actually need to be happy.

Next try to imagine what your "retired" life will consist of. Will your expenses go up or down? What will you do with your time?

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    "$900k will last roughly 50 years" are you not calculating any growth at all? Just dividing by 50? Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 21:13
  • Assuming a 4% rate of return after inflation (and US stocks have averaged around 7%), that $900K should give $36K per year, while still leaving the whole $900K for your heirs.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 22:30
  • I was simply giving a conservative example. Obviously, there are other factors to consider. My main point is that $900k could easily be enough for retirement depending on expenses.
    – skube
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 12:30

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