Will you ever be able to stop working? These 30-somethings are planning ahead.
blew up last week after MarketWatch posted a story about saving for retirement in your 30s. The piece cited a Fidelity Investments study, which suggested Americans save twice their annual salary for retirement by the age of 35, a figure that would — if continually contributed to — make up 45% of that individual’s income in retirement.
Older millennials criticized the guidance, saying it was impossible for most people to do. Some said saving anything for retirement was a struggle.
Young Americans’ savings vary. Just half (47%) of working millennials have $15,000 or more in savings, while only 16% have $100,000 or more in savings, according to recent Bank of America’s “Better Money Habits” report, which surveyed 2,000 millennials aged 23 to 37. The bank asked about the total amount of savings, including bank savings/checking accounts, IRA, 401(k) and other retirement or investment accounts.
MarketWatch spoke with a group of people in their 30s about their goals. They depict a variety of backgrounds. Some are married with children, others are single. They’ve had or have student debt, families and emergencies that have been a drain on their resources. Others have bought a home. But they’re saving, even if they admit they’ve made sacrifices as a result.
Here’s what some 30-somethings had to say about their own ability (or not) to save:
Name: Mat Burridge
Location: Hannibal, N.Y.
Profession: Sixth-grade teacher and sports coach
Marital status: Married with three children
What he’s saved: Burridge makes a salary of $55,000, plus several thousand more during sports seasons. He has saved $40,000 in a 403(b), $6,000 in a Roth IRA, plus he has an entitlement to a teachers’ pension. He will receive 68% of his salary, for the rest of his life. He will be entitled to that once he hits age 55, with 30 years of service teaching in New York. His wife is also a teacher and will receive a pension.
Financial goals they’re most proud of: The Burrdiges own a home, which they recently refinanced to a 15-year mortgage. He switched his 403(b) to a low-cost fund at Aspire Financial Services, which he calculated will save him 2.5% to 3% in fees. “That 3% every year for the next 50 years will be a huge chunk of savings,” he said.
Their challenges: Burridge said they were losing money on those fees before they switched. Plus, they are still paying off some student loans — unavoidable, but still a financial challenge. They still have two loans with $25,000 and $8,000 left to pay. The interest rates on those are about 3.5%. “I hate owing people money, and I want to get rid of it,” he said.
How they did it: They don’t take a lot of vacation. “I coach a lot of sports, so on Spring Breaks, we don’t have the chance because I’m coaching,” he said. “We don’t get paychecks during the summer, so we have to plan.” They also have three kids in day care. “Some people say live life and enjoy it to the fullest, but I want to make sure when I turn 55, I can retire and have no worries.”
Name: Divya Sangam
Location: Edison, N.J.
Profession: Communications for personal-finance website ValuePenguin
Marital status: Married, with no children
What she’s saved: About $100,000 in a retirement account in Singapore, plus about $10,000 in a 401(k) since moving to the U.S. in 2014. Currently, she is saving about 5% to 6% of her salary for retirement while living in the U.S.
While she was living in Singapore, 25% of every paycheck went to retirement, as part of a compulsory retirement program. She can’t touch that account until she is 65. If she wants to cash it out while living in the U.S., taxes and fees will apply.
Financial goals she’s most proud of: “I live in an immigrant neighborhood, and a lot of people are on H1B visas, meaning their spouse often can’t work,” she said. “For those families it’s literally living paycheck to paycheck, and they have nothing saved for retirement. I feel blessed I’m slightly better off than that.” She and her husband have cleared most of their student loans and credit-card debt.
Their challenges: Sangam said she wishes she and her husband could save more, but Edison is an expensive place to live, plus some family financial obligations.
How they did it: “For me, it’s important not to be overwhelmed by it, but break it down,” Sangam said. “Take comfort in the small triumphs.”
Every month, Sangam makes an effort to cut more from her expenses. Recently, she scaled back on Uber and public transit by walking more, gave up an expensive gym membership in favor of a YMCA, goes to local farmers’ markets instead of pricier grocery stores, plans meals, doesn’t go to bars and subscribed to MoviePass to make movies less expensive.