How Much Do You Need to Retire?

By Ellevest Team

Here’s some math that doesn’t add up: Women retire with two-thirds as much money as men do, but we live six to eight years longer. More math: Every hour you wait to invest could cost you $4 (No joke.) And the longer we wait to get started, the further behind we’ll be.

But “really, really important” doesn’t have to mean “really, really hard to do.” In fact, we’re happy to report that it’s not hard at all — seriously! Ramping up your planning and investing for retirement might even be easier than all those other items on your to-do list. Here’s a roundup of our best advice on how to get into it.

Looking for some motivation?

First: Picture yourself in retirement. Get specific about it — what does your day look like? It can help with the planning process to visualize something tangible to shoot for. (Here are some ideas from the Ellevest community that might get that imagination going.) Don’t think you have to be on a beach somewhere. Some folks want that, and that’s great! Definitely go for it. But retirement looks different for everyone (if you even retire at all!). Take our friend Franziska Williams’ word for it — she gave us a peek into her very busy post-retirement life in this short video. So did Irene Buchman and Kayla Gluck.

We also think it’s fun (and useful) to reframe saving for retirement as self-care for Future You, whether it’s thinking of it as a regular practice, as fiscal fitness, or as “treat yo self.” If you need help getting a better visual of where you’re headed, we have a worksheet that can help. And our 7 Days to a Real Retirement Plan email course, available to Ellevest clients, offers even more detail. (We also have a great live workshop, but more on that in a minute.)

Wondering which account type is best for you?

For most people, the decision is between an IRA and a 401(k). Both have tax advantages, but they’re different in some key ways. Here’s an in-depth explainer on what they are and how to decide which one’s best for you, and more details if your job doesn’t even offer a 401(k). And if you’re still undecided, we made you a handy flowchart.

Then, once you’ve decided on either an IRA or a 401(k), you might find yourself with another decision to make: Roth or traditional? Or both? The difference here has to do with taxes and timing. For help deciding, check out our explainers on Roth vs traditional IRAs and Roth vs traditional 401(k)s.

And if you’re the boss of you, there’s a special type of IRA to consider: the SEP IRA. Here’s the breakdown on them and why they tend to be such good options for the self-employed. 

Trying to figure out how much you actually need to save?

Great question. Short answer: It’ll depend on when you want to retire, and how. (There are a lot more options than you think!) Here’s an explainer on getting to your magic number. (We also have a fun lil worksheet to help you tabulate what your expenses will look like in retirement.) 

Ellevest can help you answer this question, too. Our investing platform takes your personal info into consideration — things like your gender (that whole living-longer-and-retiring-with-less thing), savings, and projected future income — and gives you a plan designed to help you get where we think you’ll need to be.

Unclear on how this whole 401(k) employer match thing works?

Did someone say “free money?” Yep … it was your employer. If you have a 401(k) employer match available to you, it’s in your best interest to take full advantage of that. Here’s how it works and why that’s the case. And here’s an explainer on that whole “vesting” thing they’re always talking about.

Got an old 401(k) or two from a past life just hanging out?

It happens. Like, a lot. There are so many moving pieces when you get a new job, and it’s easy to let those 401(k)s from your past lives get left behind. The good news is, you can probably still roll them over — either into your current 401(k) or an IRA — even if they’ve been hanging out for a while. So what does that involve? Here’s an explainer for you. And here are some common mistakes people make (and how to avoid them).

Think you might be paying too much in fees?

Definitely possible. (Not to mention expensive.) Check out our explainer on how to find your fees — it lists out all the fee types you might be paying and tells you where to find them.

If you need that little push — and who doesn’t, really? — Ellevest’s Planning for Your Dream Retirement workshop goes deeper into all of this, from the envisioning stage to the differences between retirement accounts to how to budget for those contributions. It also includes a Q&A session at the end, where one of Ellevest’s seasoned financial planners can address any lingering concerns you might still have.

No matter where you start with your retirement planning and investing, the most important thing is that you get started. (Because you don’t get that fabulous future life if you don’t do that.)


Source Ellevest. To calculate “cost you $4,” we compared the wealth outcomes for a woman who begins investing at age 30 with one who began investing at age 40 after having saved in a bank for 10 years. Both women begin with an $85,000 salary at age 30 and all salaries were projected using a women-specific salary curve from Morningstar Investment Management LLC, a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of Morningstar, Inc., which includes the impact of inflation. We assume savings of 20% of salary each year. The bank savings account assumes an average annual yield of 1% and a 22% tax rate on the interest earned, with no account fees. The investment account assumes an investment with Ellevest using a low-cost diversified portfolio of ETFs beginning at 91% equity and gradually becoming more conservative during the last 20 years, settling at 56% equity by the end of the 50-year horizon. These results are determined using a Monte Carlo simulation—a forward-looking, computer-based calculation in which we run portfolios and savings rates through hundreds of different economic scenarios to determine a range of possible outcomes. The results reflect a 70% likelihood of achieving the amounts shown or better, and include the impact of Ellevest fees, inflation, and taxes on interest, dividends, and realized capital gains. We divided the calculated cost of waiting 10 years to invest, $341,181, by 3,650 (the number of days in 10 years). The resulting cost per day is about $93.47. Dividing that result by 24 hours results in $3.89 per hour.

The results presented are hypothetical, and do not reflect actual investment results, the performance of any Ellevest product, or any account of any Ellevest client, which may vary materially from the results portrayed for various reasons.

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Ellevest Team

Ellevest helps women build and manage their wealth through goal-based investing, financial planning, and wealth management. Our mission is to get more money in the hands of women.