Everybody’s different, and we all reach major milestones—financial and otherwise—at different times. But a little guidance can be helpful to make sure you’re on the right track.
By 35, you’ll ideally have three to six months’ of basic expenses banked for emergencies. You also want money saved for big short- to mid-term goals like buying a home, going back to school or starting a business—and, of course, the big long-term goal (a.k.a. retirement). Fidelity has a handy retirement roadmap with benchmarks for how much you should have saved by each major birthday.
By 30, according to its benchmarks, you should have the equivalent or one year’s salary saved. By 35, you should have twice your annual salary saved; then three times saved by 40. In other words, if you’re making $40,000 a year when you’re 30, you should have $40,000 set aside for retirement. By 35, if you’re pulling in $45,000, your retirement savings should be closer to $90,000. By age 40, assuming you make $50,000 a year, you should have $150,000 saved.
But let’s face it, most people’s nest eggs don’t quite line up with those numbers. If your balances aren’t there yet, don’t sweat it.
Generally, if you have access to a 401(k), you want to be maxing out your contributions each year by this point—or close to it. (The current limit is $18,000—$24,000 if you’re 50 or older.) If you can’t do that without cutting into money you need for essential expenses, contribute at least enough to get any employer match and work on upping the contribution percentage each year as your income, hopefully, grows. If you don’t have a 401(k), aim to contribute the $5,500 max annually to an IRA ($6,500, if you’re 50 or older).
Nailing down more precise numbers depends on your personal goals and expectations. The first step is figuring out how much money you’ll actually need to live the life you want in retirement or to buy the home you want, for example. Then you can figure out exactly how much you need to be setting aside now to get there.