On the other hand, you only live once, and you may not want to endure much more frugality during your working life than you need to in order to meet your retirement income goals.
The most important factors when figuring out how much to save for retirement are the ones you can control:
- Your expected rate of return is under your control only in the sense that you might choose between a tour of the Georgian streets of Bath or the slums of Rio. You can’t predict what will happen but one option is much safer than the other.
- Time horizon is partially under your control.
- Target income is largely under your control.
- Your contribution level, or savings rate, is almost entirely under your control.
The uncertainty of the future makes me err on the side of saving and investing more now, while I still can.
- Overshooting my target means I can retire earlier, at the cost of some shiny things now.
- Undershooting means a future me will have to cling to the treadmill with fading strength, or face up to a retirement less golden than the one I’ve got in mind. I’d rather avoid that fate.
By saving more money, you reduce the chances of one of the less controllable factors scuppering your plans.
Save more as you age
Your contribution levels must also take into account the arch-nibbler – inflation – imperceptibly eating away the value of your pension contributions over time.
Most retirement calculators assume that you’ll increase your contributions every year to keep pace with inflation. Make sure you check your calculator’s inflation assumptions so you understand how your savings rate needs to adjust.
What are you spending money on that you can happily live without? The more unnecessary expenses you can whittle away, the more you can save, and so the less you may need to live on in the future.
Remember that working out how much to save for retirement is just one part of this equation. Check out our main article on how to create a pension plan for more on the other factors you need to consider.