What Is the Average Baby Boomer Retirement Savings?

Studies Find Boomers Are Largely Underfunded for Retirement

A boomer leans on a stack of surfboards in the back of a pickup after a long day of surfing and wonders if he should have saved more and surfed less.
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Although the age range isn’t exact, the youngest baby boomers are around 55 and the oldest are now in their 70s, meaning that having to live off their retirement savings is now a reality for many. And for those who are still working, thoughts of how to fund retirement are now important and impending financial talking points.

Baby Boomers Don’t Have Enough Saved

An April 2018 Gallup poll found that 41% of people plan to work past age 65—a 27.5% increase from 1995 when Gallup starting tracking this sentiment. Why the change? Because upcoming retirees haven’t saved enough for retirement.

According to a 2018 Sightlines report, 30% of baby boomers haven’t saved anything for retirement. For those with something saved, the median balance for those born between 1948 and 1953 was $290,000. For those born between 1954 and 1959, they had saved around $209,000.

Those numbers might not sound too alarming but that $290,000 in retirement savings equates to about $12,000 per year using the standard 4% withdrawal rate. Even adding in Social Security benefits of $17,532, an average Baby Boomer is only bringing in about $29,4532 per year. Hardly an income a person can live on comfortably.

A 2018 report from the Insured Retirement Institute ISI report found that 46% of Baby Boomers believe they will need at least $45,000 in income to retire comfortably but that would require their retirement accounts to produce around $28,000 in annual income along with Social Security benefits. To reach their goals, they would need an annuity costing $430,000 or a similar amount stashed in retirement accounts.

The IRS allows for catch up contributions for people age 50 or older. Catch up contributions allow for extra contributions to your retirement accounts to help you save more going into retirement.

But It May Not Be Their Fault

Baby Boomers have the unfortunate challenge of retiring soon after the recession. The youngest boomers started retiring in 2011, only a few years after the economy crashed. Although markets have recovered to record levels as of 2019, many lost large amounts of their savings through panic selling of assets while others have struggled to recover. A 2017 study from the Center for a Secure Retirement found that 65% of boomers didn’t believe they have seen any benefit from the recovery.

Younger Generations Are Struggling, Too

Have younger generations learned from the retirement saving mistakes of baby boomers? Looking strictly at the numbers, the answer is largely, yes.

According to a 2016 GoBankingRates survey, millennials ages 18 to 34 are 40% more likely to not have retirement savings than Gen Xers and 50% more likely than people over the age of 55 not to. However, 3 out of 5 millennials have started a retirement fund and older millennials are more likely to have retirement savings.

A little over half of Gen Xers have less than $10,000 in retirement savings but the Great Recession cost this generation 45% of their net worth on average. Add to that kids reaching adult age and heading to college, aging parents, mortgages and other financial obligations, and one can see why adequately saving for retirement is a tough task.

But 40% of older Gen Xers have $50,000 or more saved for retirement. Looking at just this 40%, the average account balance is over $200,000.

If you’re still decades away from retirement, take an active role in your retirement saving and planning. 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts are easy to forget about, but maximizing your returns early means a much higher balance later in life.

A Financial Adviser May Be Able to Help

One interesting fact—a report issued by a financial industry trade group found that working with a financial adviser helped to beat the odds. Seven in 10 boomers who had worked with a financial adviser felt confident about their retirement savings. Just one-third of those who hadn’t worked with an adviser reported the same level of confidence.

Look for a financial adviser who is a fiduciary. Fiduciaries must put your interests ahead of their own.

Making the Most of It

Despite what the financial data show, in 2018 55% of boomers reported satisfaction with how things are going in their lives versus 47% in 2017 and 43% in 2016. Although retirement savings might be lacking among baby boomers, they’re finding ways to live happy lives despite the financial belt tightening.

Article Sources

  1. Gallup. "Snapshot: Average American Predicts Retirement Age of 66," Accessed Dec. 6, 2019.

  2. Stanford Center on Longevity. "Seeing Our Way to Financial Security in the Age of Increased Longevity," Page 31, Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.

  3. Stanford Center on Longevity. "Seeing Our Way to Financial Security in the Age of Increased Longevity," Page 37, Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.

  4. SSA. "Fact Sheet: 2019 Social Security Changes," Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.

  5. Insured Retirement Institute. "As They Near Retirement, Baby Boomers Remain Unprepared," Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.

  6. Center for a Secure Retirement. "10 Years After the Crisis: Middle-Income Boomers Rebounding But Not Recovered," Accessed Dec. 4, 2019.

  7. GoBankingRates. "1 in 3 Americans Have $0 Saved for Retirement," Accessed Dec. 4, 2019.

  8. Insured Retirements Institute. "Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2019," Page 2. Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.

  9. Insured Retirements Institute. "Boomer Expectations for Retirement 2018," Page 2. Accessed Dec. 3, 2019.