Retirement in 2014: It’s Your Number that Counts

by on December 31, 2013 | Updated January 2, 2014

Big numbers capture the headlines – and our attention. Throughout 2013, there has been no shortage of stories about budget shortfalls, savings gaps and other social challenges that comprise the retirement crisis. As we are wrapping up the year, here are a few numbers that caught my eye, along with three small steps you can take in 2014.

2013: Yes, There is a Retirement Crisis

If there was a theme to the year, it was the recognition that there is a brewing retirement crisis and that we need to do something about it as a society and as individuals. The numbers here bear that out and give us a sense of the problems to be solved.fish

  • $6.6 trillion: That’s what the Center for Retirement Research has estimated as the gap between what people will need in retirement and what they have saved.
  • 20 years: A generation ago, when most of the current retirement system was created, life expectancy at 65 was 5 to 7 years. Today, it’s closer to 20 years, meaning if you retire at age 65, retirements are three times as long.
  • 65%: Building on the last point, a couple at age 65 has a 65% chance of one of them reaching their 90th birthday.
  • 50%: Only 50% of investors understand how much they will need in retirement, according to BlackRock’s Investor Pulse survey.

2014: It’s Your Number That Counts

Here’s one more number: 77% of 401(k) plan participants would save more if they knew how much they needed to save to generate retirement income, according to the 2013 BlackRock Retirement Survey. That’s cause for optimism; clarity drives action.

You can’t solve the retirement crisis. But you can solve, prevent or mitigate your retirement crisis. Here are three small steps you can take in 2014:

Expect a Raise? Consider saving it. Boosting your deferral rate into your defined contribution plan by investing your raise is a relatively painless way of paying your future self first. Spend time to be clear about your savings goals, even to the point of specifying where you want to be this time next year.

Review Your Retirement Wellness. Every year you review and renew your workplace health coverage and other benefits. Why not do the same for your retirement plan? Some steps to consider each year include reviewing your investment allocation, paying back 401(k) loans, and reviewing your company’s policies to see if there are savings options you’ve ignored. Also review your non-employer retirement planning as part of your overall Retirement Wellness Review.

Find Your Number. Determine a target goal. I think the best approach is to understand how your savings will translate into retirement income – after all, you are saving now so you can spend it later. If you are 55 or older, BlackRock’s CoRI tool can give you a quick estimate of how much you need to save to reach an income target. If you are younger, try the Department of Labor’s Income Calculator or some similar tool. The point is to have specific milestones to work toward.

Chip Castille, Managing Director, is head of BlackRock’s US & Canada Defined Contribution Group.