The amount of money someone has saved for retirement usually depends on how much income they earn and how much of it they can save. And residents of some regions are more well-prepared than others for the future.
Wealth management platform Personal Capital analyzed the retirement savings of over 2 million of its users to find the average balance in each state — with some highly variable results. The accounts include members of four generations: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
In Connecticut, for instance, the average balance across all retirement accounts is more than $523,500. Take a trip out West to Utah, and the typical balance drops to roughly $300,400. The national average is about $407,500.
For its study, Personal Capital focused just on the balances in customers' traditional 401(k) and IRA accounts. Outliers like savings accounts, test accounts, and duplicative spousal accounts were excluded.
Based on the data, here are the five states where Americans have the most money saved.
Average retirement balance: $523,568
Average retirement balance: $494,562
Average retirement balance: $489,664
Average retirement balance: $489,070
Average retirement balance: $468,579
Some regions tend to outperform others in terms of savings. Four of the top five locations are on the East Coast, where residents can earn higher salaries but must account for a high cost of living.
Another factor that could account for the difference is varying state tax burdens. New Hampshire, the No. 2 state on the list for retirement savings, is one of the most tax-friendly states in the country, according to WalletHub data. The total tax burden in New Hampshire, including property, income, and sales tax, averages 6.84% of a household's income.
Given that so many American have to cope with the high cost of housing and heavy student debt burdens, saving money for retirement on top of everything else can seem overwhelming. But by making regular contributions over the course of your career, you harness the power of compound interest to help your money grow.
Someone who starts saving $5,000 per year at age 25 will have more than twice as much by age 65 than someone who waits until 35 to start saving.
Video by Ian Wolsten
"You have to start saving somewhere," says Christie Whitney, CFP, vice president of investment advice and director of planning at Rebalance. "And starting small is OK! Anything is better than nothing."
It's no surprise that saving during Covid can be hard: A recent survey from MagnifyMoney found that 30% of adults had used their retirement accounts as a source of extra cash during the pandemic. That group withdrew an average of $6,757.
But for many Americans, reduced spending in a lockdown world has provided a unique opportunity to save. The personal savings rate, or percentage of disposable income people save, soared to 33% last April. Even though it dropped to 13.6% in March 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, that's still higher than before the pandemic.
The extra savings appear to have improved many Americans' outlook for their financial future. In a recent Coventry Direct poll, 60% of the 1,500 adults polled said they feel confident they will have enough money for retirement someday, while 45% expect to gradually increase their contributions.
Savers have also seen their retirement savings grow rapidly, thanks to the recent stock market upswing. The average 401(k) balance hit a new record in the last quarter of 2020, reaching $121,500 — an 8% increase from the year before.
Pinpointing how much you should save for the future can be a challenge. Experts recommend investing about 15% of your paycheck in a workplace retirement account, which includes your own contributions as well as any your employer makes for you. Take a look at Grow's retirement savings calculator if you're not sure what to put away, and to get a sense of what your goal should be.
"Young people need to understand that patience and discipline can help them get to a comfortable retirement," says May Jiang, CPA, CFP, a tax and financial advisor at Offit Advisors. "Time is on their side, and compounded growth over time is incredibly powerful."
Start by making a realistic budget, Jiang says. "If the budget shows a surplus, save the extra in a Roth or brokerage account. If it shows a deficit, look for discretionary expenses to cut and bring the budget to surplus. You can also make saving easier by setting up automatic transfers to your savings or investment accounts, "even if it's just a small amount to start off."
How much you're ultimately able to save for retirement will depend on your individual circumstances, but you can boost your savings with smart financial moves like spending less or taking on a side hustle.
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