How much money Americans in their 50s have in their 401(k)s

For many Americans in their 50s, retirement is right around the corner. But they may not have enough saved up to do so comfortably.

By the time you turn 50, you should aim to have around six times your salary saved for retirement, according to Fidelity. So, if you earn $100,000, for example, ideally you should have around $600,000 sitting in your retirement savings account.

However, the reality is that most Americans in that age group haven’t reached the recommended milestone.

On average, Americans between the ages of 50 and 59 have around $189,800 in their 401(k)s, according to data from Fidelity Investments Q2 2023 Retirement Analysis provided to CNBC Make It.

But most people have less than a third of that amount saved. The median 401(k) balance for Americans in their 50s is $57,000, meaning half of 401(k) balances are lower than this amount and half are higher.

These numbers are drastically different because a handful of accounts with huge balances can pull up the average. Median account balance is considered a more accurate representation of what most people have actually saved for retirement.

Getting your retirement savings on track

Many factors may have made it difficult for someone in their 50s to have saved for retirement over the years.

People in their 50s may have children in college, taken on too much mortgage debt to pay for their homes or be taking care of ailing parents who also didn’t have enough saved for retirement, says Cathy Curtis, a certified financial planner and founder of Curtis Financial Planning. She is also a member of CNBC’s Advisor Council.

Rising costs due to inflation has also impacted people’s ability to save for retirement, regardless of age. About 25% of employed adults say they decreased their retirement contributions in 2022 because of how inflation affected their finances, according to the 2023 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index. Almost 12% stopped saving completely.

But if your retirement savings aren’t at a place you’re comfortable with, it’s not too late to get on track.

Since your account balance can be impacted by factors outside of your control, such as inflation and market volatility, it’s a good idea to focus on something you can control: your retirement savings rate.

This is the percentage of your income that you contribute annually toward your 401(k) or other retirement savings account. Fidelity recommends aiming for a savings rate of around 15%, including any employer match. On average, people in their 50s have a savings rate of about 15.7%, per Fidelity data provided to CNBC Make It.

For 2023, the annual 401(k) contribution limit is $22,500. But if you’re over 50, you can make additional catch-up contributions of up to $7,500 annually, meaning your 401(k) contribution limit would increase to $30,000 annually.

If you’re already maxing out your 401(k) contributions and your income is below a certain limit, you can look into other ways to save for retirement, such as contributing to a Roth IRA, says Curtis.

For 2023, you can contribute up to $6,500 annually toward a Roth IRA if you’re single and make less than $138,000 or married and jointly earn less than $218,000.

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