Can You Guess How Many Americans Successfully Retire With $1 Million Saved? The Percentage May Shock You


May 31, 2024

Saving for retirement is an essential goal for many Americans, but achieving the ideal savings target remains elusive for many. In 2023, the average American retiree had about $170,726 in retirement savings, a decrease from $191,659 at the beginning of 2022. This 10% reduction is significantly lower than the recommended $555,000. Only 12% of retirees have achieved or exceeded this recommended savings amount.  SmartAsset's free tool matches you with up to 3 financial advisors that serve your area in minutes that can help you be part of this 12%.

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The Challenge Of Insufficient Retirement Savings

A startling 37% of retirees report having no retirement savings, an increase from 30% in 2022. This lack of savings is attributed to various factors, including unplanned early retirement because of health issues, as experienced by 65% of retirees. A significant portion of retirees — approximately 71% — carry non-mortgage debt averaging $19,888, which includes medical debts and other expenses.

Only a small fraction of retirees — around 8% to 10% — have successfully saved $1 million or more. This figure highlights the substantial challenges many face in reaching such a lofty savings goal, with the majority of retirees falling well short of this mark. This situation underscores the need for more effective retirement planning and saving strategies customized to your lifestyle and spending.

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Factors Impacting Retirement Planning

The retirement landscape in the U.S. has been shaped by multiple factors. Notably, 65% of retirees stopped working earlier than planned, with health concerns being a major factor. This premature retirement often results in lower overall savings. High inflation rates in recent years also have significantly affected the value of retirement savings. As a result, 83% of retirees reported that inflation impacted their retirement savings, with many experiencing major financial impacts. This economic environment has compelled retirees to reassess their living expenses, with 44% struggling to afford necessities like groceries, housing, utilities and medical expenses.


Retirees have expressed various regrets regarding their retirement planning. A majority admit they did not prepare adequately, with 51% acknowledging their lack of sufficient preparation. Common regrets include a lack of understanding about retirement savings, poor money management before retirement and underestimating the amount needed for a comfortable retirement. Many retirees also wish they had been more aggressive with their investments earlier in life.

As a result of these financial challenges, retirees have had to make significant adjustments to their lifestyles. Approximately 45% report a decline in their standard of living since retirement, leading to reduced spending on nonessential items like entertainment, travel and dining out. Spending on essentials such as groceries, gasoline and healthcare has increased, reflecting the impacts of inflation.


Strategies For Achieving A Comfortable Retirement

Given these findings, it’s clear that achieving a comfortable retirement requires careful planning, consistent saving and strategic investment decisions.


Here are key strategies to consider:

  • Start saving early. Begin retirement savings early in your career to take advantage of compound interest.
  • Make regular contributions, even if they are small, as they can accumulate significantly over time.
  • Focus on debt reduction. Aim to reduce or eliminate high-interest debts, such as credit card balances.
  • Consider paying off mortgages before retirement to decrease monthly expenses.
  • Consult with a financial adviser for personalized advice tailored to your financial situation and goals. Financial advisers can help in creating a diversified investment portfolio to manage risk and maximize returns.
  • Contribute the maximum amount to retirement accounts like 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to take full advantage of tax benefits and employer matches.
  • Spread investments across various asset classes to reduce risk. Include stocks, bonds, real estate and other alternative investments like art, which has seen has seen a 13.8% annualized return, surpassing the 10.2% from the S&P 500​.
  • Regularly rebalance your portfolio to maintain the desired asset allocation.
  • Build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. This prevents the need to withdraw from retirement savings prematurely.
  • Delay Social Security benefits. If possible, delay taking Social Security benefits until full retirement age or later to maximize the monthly benefit amount.

*This information is not financial advice, and personalized guidance from a financial adviser is recommended for making well-informed decisions. Jeannine Mancini has written about personal finance and investment for the past 13 years in a variety of publications including Zacks, The Nest and eHow. She is not a licensed financial adviser, and the content herein is for information purposes only and is not, and does not constitute or intend to constitute, investment advice or any investment service. While Mancini believes the information contained herein is reliable and derived from reliable sources, there is no representation, warranty or undertaking, stated or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Benzinga Money is a reader-supported publication. We may earn a commission from the advertisers associated with this article. Read our Advertiser Discloser.