Save your first—or NEXT—$100,000!

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who’ve been there.

Get our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool: Our FREE 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on the money goals you’re working toward right now.

No, thanks
Advertising Disclosure

How Much Should Be In Your 401(k) At 30?

More than ever, 20-somethings need to start saving early for retirement. Get guidelines on how much you should have in your 401(k) or IRA by age 30.

What should you contribute to your 401(k)? How much should you have invested for retirement at 30, 40, 50, etc? These are good questions. Here, I try to answer them, but I should warn you:

Personal finance is personal

The more you can contribute to your 401(k), and the sooner you can start, the better. But everybody’s situation is different. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel “behind” in the retirement game … remember, you can’t change yesterday but you can take action today and change tomorrow.

We’ll get to how much you should have in your 401(k) at 30, 40, 50, etc … but let’s start with the more important question:

How much should your contribute to your 401(k)?

The answer? As much as you comfortably (and legally) can!

  • In 2015, the maximum 401(k) contribution allowed by the IRS is $18,000. (Savers 50 and older can make an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution.)

Okay, done laughing? If the idea of contributing $18,000 a year doesn’t make you laugh, well, great! The rest of us need to find a contribution amount that’s going to accelerate our retirement savings but not cause us to start bouncing checks or going into debt.

The first questions to ask are:

  • Does your employer match contributions?
  • If so, up to what percentage?

Many employers will kick in a little extra towards your retirement plan. (A common scenario is they’ll match half of what you contribute up to a maximum of 6 percent of your salary.) If this is the case, then you want to AT LEAST contribute the maximum amount they’ll match. If you don’t, it’s like turning down part of your salary. If your boss handed you a $500 bonus check, would you say “no, thanks”? Of course not! So don’t pass up employer 401(k) matching either!

Beyond that, here are some guidelines:

Make retirement contributions as aggressively as you comfortably can. Hit Level 1, then step up only after you’ve paid off high-interest credit card debt and saved $5,000-$10,000 for emergencies. Balance 401(k) contributions made with pretax dollars with a Roth IRA, which will provide income that’s tax free at retirement.

Related: The Roth IRA: Why You (Definitely) Need One

How much should you have in your 401(k) by 30?

Just how much should you have saved for retirement before your 30th birthday?

Assuming you have been working since you were 22 or 23, at 30, a great target is to have a 401(k) or IRA equal to about one year’s salary.

For example, if you make $40,000 a year, you could try to have $40,000 saved for retirement. (And if you did save $40,000 before turning 30 and never added another dime, you could have as much as $600k by age 65 with an eight percent annual return).

Related: If you still don’t believe in the power of compound interest, you have to see this

That said, don’t freak out if your retirement saving isn’t on this level yet. The sooner you start, the better. But if you start at 30 and don’t plan on retiring until you’re 65, that still gives your money plenty of time to earn interest.

No two investors are alike, especially beginning investors. Your starting salary range and the number of years you have been working are going to be much bigger factors in determining your retirement savings balance at 30 than they will be at 40 or 50, when you will have had additional years to make catch-up contributions or adjust your portfolio as necessary.


There are a couple of good reasons some twentysomethings don’t start putting away for retirement immediately:

  • You’re in grad school
  • You’re battling big debts

If you’re a student, it’s unlikely you’ll have extra money to tuck away for retirement. And that’s okay, because your education will hopefully improve your lifelong earning potential.

If you’ve got high-interest credit card debt, your top priority should be to pay that down. Debt interest rates could crush even the best retirement account returns, so it’s best to use extra funds to dispatch credit card balances quickly. The one exception? If your employer matches 401(k) contributions. In this case, contribute the maximum percentage your employer will match, then increase retirement savings after your debt is gone.


What does it take to save your annual salary in a retirement account before you turn 30?

Let’s assume you start work at 22, can immediately contribute to a 401(k), and that your employer will match 50 percent of your contributions up to a maximum of 6 percent of your salary. Assuming an 8 percent average return and annual raises of 3 percent, you’ll need to contribute 10 percent of your salary every year to reach this goal.

401k balance - MoneyUnder30


Today, many twentysomethings will work several jobs before turning 30. If this is you, it means your income will fluctuate considerably. Ambitious? It is also possible that your salary could as much as double between the time you start working and your 30th birthday. In these cases, set an absolute 401(k) savings goal for the time you turn 30 rather than using your annual earnings as a guide. (Also, be sure to consider the impact of vesting schedules on employer-matched retirement funds).

Rollover 401(k)s into IRAs when you leave jobs and stay on top of your investments. Keep them simple, like index funds and target-date funds, but make sure they’re aggressive. Finally, consider opening a Roth IRA and contributing as much as you can (up to the 2015 limit of $5,500) to supplement your 401(k). Unlike your 401(k), contributions to a Roth IRA are made with post-tax dollars, but once you retire the withdrawals are tax free.

Related: Where To Invest: 401k, IRA Or Both?

My rule of thumb is that your contributions should be just large enough to feel uncomfortable. Think about what you could contribute. If you say, “I wouldn’t miss another $100 a month,” then consider going higher until you say “that might get a little tight.” Pull back 5 or 10 percent from that discomfort zone, and invest away!

How you invest matters, too

Although it’s always better to save more, you can’t overlook how you are investing your hard-earned dollars.

All 401(k) plans are not created equal. And though 401(k)s have a lot of upsides — high tax-advantaged contribution limits and employer matches — they have negatives, too. The biggest complaint about 401(k) plans is a lack of investment choices.

The companies that administer 401(k)s choose the funds you can invest in. Depending on your employer and your 401(k) administrator, you may not have many funds to choose from and/or the available funds will have higher fees than you could get if you were investing on your own.

This is the biggest reason we recommend opening an IRA, whether it’s to:

  • Invest funds after taking advantage of your employer’s match or
  • Rollover an old 401(k) as soon as you leave a job.

In an IRA, you can find more investment options with lower costs.

Related: The Best Online Stock Brokers Compared

Not long ago, you had two options: Give up 1 percent of your annual assets for a professional wealth manager to handle your investments … or figure it out on your own.

Fortunately, there are new, powerful tools out there that can give you free insights into whether you’re investing in the right areas within your 401(k) and IRAs. Personal Capital is a free app that creates easy-to-understand visuals of the investments you own in your 401(k), IRA, and other investment accounts. It then provides recommendations for how to rebalance your portfolio for maximum results and reduce expenses.

Related: Personal Capital: A Powerful App For Investors


I hope this post was helpful in some way. I know a lot of people are searching for a concrete answer, like “If you’re X years old and earn $Y, contribute $Z.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

I can tell you this: Everybody should

  • take advantage of employer matching,
  • pay off high-interest credit card debt, and
  • start a Roth IRA to save on taxes later in life.

If you’re looking to take action today, I recommend opening an IRA account at any of our recommended online brokers or at least giving your 401(k) a free checkup using Personal Capital’s portfolio and 401(k) fee analyzer.

Published or updated on July 16, 2015

Want FREE help eliminating debt & saving your first (or next) $100,000?

Money Under 30 has everything you need to know about money, written by real people who've been there. Enter your email to receive our free weekly newsletter and MoneySchool, our free 7-day course that will help you make immediate progress on whatever money challenge you're facing right now.

We'll never spam you and offer one-click unsubscribe, always.

About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30.

  1. David Weliver says:

    I have decided to close the comments on this post.

    Since writing this article nearly three years ago, it has become one of the most visited pages on my site; dozens of new readers visit it every day. Although I am thrilled the topic interests so many, I am disappointed in the direction the comments have taken. The comments section has become nothing more than a game of “mine’s bigger” (with regards to net worth, of course).

    If you are playing that game, you missed my point.

    Saving for retirement is important and it’s good to get ahead of the game. (Statistics show that, on average, Americans don’t do much retirement saving before age 35). And for us ambitious savers, I recommend trying to save roughly a year’s salary before you reach 30. (And notice I say YOUR salary, not a fixed dollar amount).

    Still, I emphasize that this is a guideline.

    Some people inherit money. Many do not. Some people have parents who pay for college (and law school). Others do not. And even after all of those variables, kindergarten teachers and nuclear physicists are compensated completely differently, and nobody is in a position to judge either person…especially based solely upon his or her bank account balance. This is why it’s called *personal* finance!

    To add to the ridiculousness of all this, let us not forget that these comments are anonymous. I could write in: “I’m 22, earn $500k, and have a net worth of $5 million”. That could be true, although it’s probably not (because anybody that rich should have better things to do than read my blog). Then again: Who cares!?

    Perhaps if we spent less time comparing ourselves to others and more time contemplating what WE value in life, our OWN hopes and dreams, and how WE are going to get there, we’d all be a little happier.

  2. Anthony says:

    or complete liars….

  3. hancock says:

    Brian 2.0, where do u live? I’m 35 and I’ve lived in New Jersey, Illinois, Washington DC, Maryland, and now Seattle and I’ve never even heard of $2500 property tax on $550k appraised property, I mean that’s insane, we’re talking 0.45% property tax rate, no wonder so many states are broke! Also, where u got mortgage for 4%, is that 3-5 yr ARM or we’re talking fixed, and what bank? I’m really interested, I’m making about $160k working both double duty as fulltime software engineer and setting up networks on a part-time basis, but my costs are killing me on the west coast (btw, what do u do exactly?). I’m considering taking job elsewhere so I can cutback cost while raising 2 kids as single dad?

    • Lau says:

      Yeah i’m shocked that people at 30 have 6 figures in both savings and retirement. However i guess this type of website probably generates money hungry people or super saavy savers.

  4. Tyson says:

    Some of these answers are unbelievable. One thing I’m noticing is how either grossly overpaid, cheap, or a combination of the two some people have to be based on their answers. 30+/- yrs old and $200k in savings or $350k in 401k!?! Investment bankers & MBA’s are the overpaid crowd (with a master in other than MBA I have seen the messes they make and wonder seriously why the ridiculous pay). I guess others just eat mac and cheese and never go out on the town, buy a nice watch or car, or travel to Europe. Come on live a little people!

  5. Lau says:

    Well I’m a 31 year old woman and I’m not in the same boat as many people here. For starters I’m single and after reading how much the married people have combined, I’m thinking, wow another reason to find a husband ASAP! lol. I’ve had some ups and downs over the years. I got laid off last spring which set me off quite a bit. I then got in a car wreck with an older car and i had to shell out 7k for a new car. I lost my mind for a bit i think and just didnt save the way i had been. I did manage to finish my masters and find a new job in the midst of all this, but i’m making 6k less than i was :( Luckily i have no school loans. I have $14,306.33 in my 401k…i need to be better about that i guess. In savings I have a total of 27,000. I worry that i am not doing the best with my savings. I have the majority of it in a money market account through Bank of America. If anyone has advice on how I can do better, let me know :)

  6. Brian2.0 says:

    My situation. I’m 36, wife is 41. Both have business undergrads and MBAs. We have 3 kids. My wife stopped working when the second was born. Out of college, 1998, I made $30K a year in corporate world. I moved quickly up the ladder, both horizontally and vertically, taking every assignment they threw at me, doing anything they asked, and volunteering for all the tough crap. My wife made about $60K a year when she suspended her corporate life 5 years ago. I now make $175K base, plus bonus of $50k+. We have maxed out our 401K every year that we’ve ever worked and saved, saved, and saved. Our only debt is our mortgage, which sits at $375K.

    Not counting equity, our savings position is: $260K in 401(k), $360K in cash/CDs, $35K in stocks. We moved into a large cash position in 2008 and haven’t gotten back into the market yet. Money managers would cringe at our position. We are too cash heavy, for sure. When you add the equity in our house, we have a net worth of about $750-$800K. In 2008, before the crash, we were over a $1M. We were paper millionaires when I was 34 years old.

    We don’t feel rich. Here are some secrets: My wife drives a 9 year old car, and I just sold my 7 year old truck. We have a beautiful house, but it is super low taxes ($2,500 a year on $550K appraised) and is financed at 4%. Our monthly housing expense is only about $2K a month. Most of our clothes for us and the kids are bought at Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Target. We never, ever, carry a CC balance. We use CCs A LOT, but pay off the balance every month. Cash-back cards are great when you are seeing $3K-$5K go through your card each month. We used to pay our mortgage on our credit card as well, but banks frown on that now. Virtually every large expense we buy is when it’s on sale, last year’s model, etc. Our biggest expense, frankly, is food. Food for a family of 5, when 3 of them are young boys, is crazy.

    When my wife goes back to work, which she will probably start doing part-time consulting this year or next, our net worth will probably begin to grow double-digit rates again.

    For those that say delay having kids as long as you can, I completely, completely disagree. If I could do it over again, we would have had kids even earlier. We didn’t have kids until I was 28, she 33. We should have started at least 2-3 years earlier. This only applies if you really want kids! My thoughts are that having kids when you are younger, financially, allows you to have a better grasp on your financial health. You will raise your kids during some of your fastest-appreciating wage periods (your 30’s and 40’s) and they’ll be out the door when you have really accumulated some net worth and are prepared to start spending it off (your 50’s and 60’s). We are still thinking about having one more child, but one thing holding us back is that if we have one now (okay, 9 months from now) I’ll be 60 and my wife 65 before the last one is out of college. I’m not sure that’s where I want to be at 60 frankly.

  7. Jahrue says:

    It’s interesting reading all the comments, but I have to admit, some of the stuff I’m reading are like lah lah land to me and a little unrealistic for 99% of the people! Like 100k 2BR condo in South SF, that’s gotta be a joke!!!
    I am 32 yrs old and single, working in the biotech industry in the SF Bay Area as a principal engineer. I graduated cum laude with a B.S. and a Masters in chemical eng. from a top 50 National University on the east coast. I’ve been very lucky ever since graduating 8 yrs ago, found my first job making $52,000 for a company in LA 2 weeks out of school. With all the moves I’ve made (relo to mid-west,east coast,and northwest), I returned to the Bay Area 5 yrs ago where I grew up. Although I thought about buying a house in 2005(I had about $80,000 in savings and $28,000 in 401k), I simply couldn’t afford those high 500k condos in the Bay Area. Fortunately in the past 5 yrs, I’ve changed jobs twice and really boosted my income during the boom between 2005-2008. Now I earn about $140,000 in salary and bonus (without management responsibility)plus stock options. I put about 5% into my 401k (I figure it’ll be long shot that I can withdraw, the Vanguards will need a bailout most likely) and my company also match 100% up to 5%. In addition, I put 10% of my after-tax income toward company stocks which I bought and sold as soon as I have a 20% gain (I never claimed a loss, as soon as Lehman was about to be in trouble, I suspended all my purchase and dumped everything). As of last month, I have over $230,000 in savings, $65,000 in 401k, plus some stocks that worth about $8000. I’ve only driven 2 cars in my life, a Honda Accord that I drove until I got a promotion from my 2nd job when I made $70,000, and an Acura TSX which I bought outright in 2004 when I broke $100k in annual income. I’ve been renting for the past 8 years, never paid more than $1100 in monthly rent (go ahead and call me cheap! I used to pay only $650 per month when I lived in Illinois). The only debt I have is $28,000 in student loan which I consolidated with Sallie Mae in 2003 when the rates were very low, it sits at 1.875% interest and I probably will never pay it off, even my worst investment I still made 3%. As of last month, I bought my first house for 730k (it’s a new built) with a mortgage of 580k in an area that used to cost $1.1 million for these homes. I planned it so that I still got my low mortgage rate (5%)with my FICO score at 800 and plan to close in May, just in time for both $8000 federal credit and $10,000 CA credit. By all means, I don’t have the highest income, but I believe if you have discipline and invest wisely rather than emotionally or irrationally, with some luck you will be able to reach the goal you set. And by all means, delay having kids as long as you can until you’ve saved up(still get married if u can, there’s something to be said for having additional income as a cushion in case of emergency, my engagement failed apart 5 yrs ago cause of all the relos my fiancee had to put with, despite I made twice the amount she did), though they’re a real blessing, you will enjoy greater financial flexibility and eventually a bigger nest egg that you can count on when you start a family.

  8. Keith says:

    Very interesting comments. I am 45 and have $103K in my 401 plus another $20k in other accounts. I realize I am behind. However, I have 4 kids aged 9 – 18 and a wife of 22 years. I wouldn’t trade any of the kids for a few $100K. I’m glad we started young and have been young enough to enjoy them. We didn’t have a lot of money but kids could care less if they are eating pbj or filet mignon. My wife stayed home for the past 17 years and recently got her real estate license and has just had her first sale. All her income will go to our retirement. She is just 41 and hopefully can put away some cash. Those 17 years at home did a world for the kids and for our family. Sure, just about every other household had both parents working, newer car, bigger house. But, I’ve seen the difference between the latch-key kids and the kids with a parent at home. Big difference. You need to have some balance in your life. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow and that money in the bank is going to do a whole lot of good.

  9. JAYARE says:





    • dudeman says:

      @Jayare. Your company match 100%? you have 590K in 401K after years? Try to lie better next time. And fix that cap lock on your keyboard

    • Cam says:

      How old are you now? It’s pretty difficult to save $280k into a 401k account over 4 years when the contribution limit is $16.5k or less in previous years…

  10. Mike in Austin says:

    @Alex. Pay off CC debt. But I have a car loan at 1.9% interest. This is good debt.

    Borrow money at low interest rates. Get rid of 18% interest rates.

    School Debt is often “lower” interest rates. But if you plan on buying a house, paying off loans matters much more than having money in a 401K on what you can afford. Many people who won’t own homes should be putting money into 401ks (Manhattan for example)

    The 401k is NOT necessarily the best place to put your money.

    You have no access to it and all you get is theoretically tax deferred status. There are a lot of sound criticisms of 401(k)s. I put the MINIMUM I need to do get my company match. The rest goes into savings.

    I’m 40. Live in Texas. Make about $98K a year, wife makes about $40K a year. We make approx $12K a month. We spend approx. $9400 on avg including Taxes, Property Taxes, etc. We put away about $2.6K a month avg. (Use Quicken religiously). I feel I am average for my age.

    I was hesitant to disclose that though. There is a lot of “look at me” on this board. And that wasn’t “bragging”

    For “savings” We have about $215K in 401(k)’s and $165K in cash. No CDs, etc. We have about $315K in debt including 1 car loan and a house loan. I will put about 45K of the cash against the 2nd on the house and decrease that debt. We have about $24K of equity in our home right now if we had to sell the home quickly. Luckily Austin hasn’t been hit as hard as some places.

    All that $$$ means nothing though. It’s like saying you have 5000 gallons of water. To a single person this is a lot. To a family of 5, not so much.

    The problem with savings is you don’t know how long you’ll need it. Or what you will spend it on. Kid’s college tuition? Are you going to die at 85 or 55? Nobody plans on getting cancer or MS. Even if healthcare insurance is now “affordable” that doesn’t mean getting sick is. If you get a major illness, your savings will be wiped out. Even with “healthcare insurance” Neighbor had cancer. Couldn’t work. This is life.

    I know 401k values appear to define our security but they don’t. 401k’s are extremely difficult to get your money out of. You get a reward for that through tax deferment but every person has to decide if that is worth it.

    My goal was to be able to pay the mortgage on my house for 12 months in a catastrophe without sweating out losing it to foreclosure. At 10K a month, I can afford to lose my job.

    Worrying about retirement in 2047? Not on my radar. And trust me, the entire financial system and taxation are going to be COMPLETELY different by then, so all the assumptions we’re using are … probably wrong.

    Watch your spending closely, and use tools like Quicken or other financial management software to understand your spending. Be prepared for emergencies because everyone has them. Don’t have CC debt. And good luck.

  11. Alex says:

    Im 21 years old and making 40k, I am putting away 5% into 401k (my employer matches 4% of that) I also put 10% of my salery into an employee stock plan because I get a 15% discount and I have about 5k in investments so far apart from the stock plan. I am working hard to raise the investment amount as fast as possible. I have very little savings and I am still a full time student as well. I graduate in a quarter and I will walk away with 20k in school debt and 18k in a car loan 1.5k in cc debt. Should I be paying my debt faster or should I be investing differntly as in putting a higher amount into 401k vs employee stock. Or am I even investing enough at all? Any advice would be nice.

  12. Jeff says:

    Charles, you will always be single and lonely. Your computer will be your only source of love.

  13. charles says:

    Trust me, with the divorce rate approaching 50% in this country, My bet is that half the men on this message board will be broke or atleast def less well off by 50. 80% OF ALL DIVORCES ARE INITIATED BY WOMEN.

  14. Mike says:

    One thing I learned from my friends, try and delay having kids for as long as you can. I’m 25 and I have 30k in retirement with little debt. I will probably be able to save up a lot more than someone who has 4 kids even if he makes a higher salary than me.

  15. Brian says:

    Im 26 single and my company suspended the 5% 401k match about a year ago. I still contribute 10% and my 401k is currently about 23K. I have 13K in savings and I own my own house. No Credit card debt and no student loans!! Thats the best thing I have to stand on based on all the 100K salaried people responding to this post. I want to get as far a head as I can before I get married or have kids because I know that will change things a lot. My word of advise is just invest in things that can increase or appreciate in value. (real estate, 401k, mutual funds, etc). Fancy Cars, Clothes and all that other stuff will always be there. Live within your means!! and go have some fun sometimes, cant take this cash with you if you get hit with a bus tomorrow.

  16. Jay says:

    Try reading becoming your own banker by R Nelson Nash, it will change how you look at the stuff all your money into an IRA theory. Just a thought.

  17. Ryan says:

    Don’t forget numismatics and ART!

    I keep noticing people mention their IRAs, CDs, Savings accounts & Mortages in addition to their 401k. Don’t be afraid to put 5%-10% or so of your money into fine art and bullion to truly balance your portfolio.

    I know as an corporate employee & artist I spend higher % than normal on buying art but hey fine art has been proven to do as well, if not better than the S&P 500 over the years + you get to keep an eye on it 😉 Good luck to all in obtaining financial stability.

  18. Dave says:

    I’m in my mid thirties and so is my wife. My 401K plan tracks my balance beginning in 2006. At that point, I had about $60K in 401K after investing for 10 years. 4 years later it is at $135K. My wife saw similar patterns and her balance is approximately the same, so we have about $275K cumulative. In four years the balance more than doubled, even considering the economic downturn in 2008. Point is that eventually compounding interest and increasing equity prices begin to snowball and the money begins to work for you.

  19. Ja says:

    NYC metro, Master and Doctor degrees $105k sal & spouse $120 + bonus. Non-lux cars paid cash. Debt free 3 years, $100k saved, $25k stock, $60k in one 401K (age 30), spouse (28) to begin one this year at max donation. Started at 22 @ 40k salary working way through bachelors/masters. Volunteer/mentor to ‘urban’ youth by staying in a white flight zone. $1700 rent 2br/1.5 bath garage

  20. ichimunki says:

    Just to rely to the comment, I work for a foundation which is a nonprofit but the pay is better in foundation work. I have also worked since the founding of the organization and we only started with 2 people. We have been around for about 6-7 years and I take on A LOT of work so my pay is justified. My sister is a paralegal and probably makes a little more than me. These are NYC salaries! As long as you stick around for a long time and show your worth with hard work in NYC, I’m sure you will eventually make close to what I make. Please note that I have not gone to graduate school or have children which helps tremendously in terms of net worth. The negative parts of the net worth equation are the high high salaries in NYC/NYS and the high cost of living. Without careful budgeting, I’m sure $80K would not go a long way here. Currently, we pay $3,000 a month to rent a one bedroom/one bathroom doorman apartment in Manhattan. Anyway, the key to these high salaries and high net worth are to: 1. Move to a high salary city 2. Stick with a good job and show you are worth more money 3. At least get a college degree from a top private or state school. I don’t know if grad schools are worth the money in terms of net worth for certain professions although you definitely need a masters for law, medicine, etc. 4. Pay off all debt.

  21. scruvy says:

    i’m not one to comment on blog posts but these figures given on the comments are deranged.

    ichimunki said that she makes 80K a year for a nonprofit/403b plan at 31. Even in Manhattan, those are some high odds.

    Go to another web site for help.

  22. Eric says:

    Let’s see, saved about 30k by age 25 (my wife an additional 10k). Then we quit our jobs and went into the Peace Corps for 2 years. Then another 2 years in grad school and took out money out of retirement (20k) accounts for a down payment on a condo. Traveled to 5 out of 7 continents.

    Now: 32 – about 70K combined saved. About 130K combined student loans, no other debt other then a 650K mortgage :) (relocated into the SF Bay Area and there is no cheap housing unless you are willing to give up 1-2 hours of your day on a commute and have to drive everywhere). 1 daughter, 1 other (TBD) on the way. Any financial regrets? Still haven’t seen Australia or Antarctica.

    The Punchline: Assuming 12% savings increasing by 1% a year, an 8% ROI, my and my wifes current post grad school salaries (180k), inflation of 3.5%, not wasting excess money (e.g. not buying a new car ever, vacationing by actually traveling as locals do instead of like tourists), saving everything above the amount I use, paying for my kids first 4 years of college, home cost increasing in line with inflation, SSN reduced by 20% and no medicare and my companies retirement plan I project an age 65 net worth of between $17-24 million roughly 2-4 times what I would need if I live to 100 and lived at what I use now (inflation adjusted of course) + 30% . Of course lots of variability because of promotions, keeping my job, how much I actually spend (way below my salary and paying off those student loans) etc. but still even without the pension, without SSN, salary increasing with inflation and no increase in value in the house we would still be more then okay.

    My point: Playing a little bit of catch- up isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are planning on having kids. Now with kids I couldn’t spend 2 months traveling through Southeast Asia or stay up all night finishing a paper or any number of other things. My father passed away prior to retirement so I know there is no guarantee you can do these things later either. I think better financial advice is to set general goals for things you would like to do in life (a bucket list so to speak) and prioritize for before kids, after kids, retirement and other (i.e. professional, family, etc.). Figure out when you’re going to do each and what you have to do to make it happen. Find your passions.

  23. CJ says:

    A healthy way to accumulate funds is to invest in brick and mortor companies that offer a GOOD dividend. Stick with it try NOT to end up divorce situation on your way and concentrate of refraining from the status quo: like driving a vehicle too expensive-its only a point A to point B, right? I drive a 03’Neon and presently have no debt besides a home which my wife and I have 170k left to go.
    Believe me, life is MUCH BETTER when there is CONTROLLED DEBT and discipline to guide spending.

  24. Late Bloomer says:

    Great comments, thanks all for being honest and sharing. Really help those of us with a late start or that have reached bumps in the road of life so that we can put things into perspective. Here’s my path hoping others can gain from this…all I can say is I am worried.

    WORK AND EDUCATION: I am 39. I started working at 16 technically then moved to the west from the east. I had to work FT at the age of 18 for a year in order to avoid out of state tuition as I hadn’t taken my SAT. Our family had 5 siblings, mom, dad, dog, cat, mortgage and a car so we couldn’t afford much other than the essentials. We didn’t even have real furniture just the basics like a dinner table, a couch and beds. After working full time at age 18 for a year to establish residency. I made about $18K a year as a receptionist at a high end bank. I went to a JC at 19, and worked somewhere else making a little more and lived at home doing marketing and sales. I bought a car for $6K and my dad helped with that and with school. I had to pay him back for both and I did, roughly $8K. I then transferred to a PAC 10 private school using loans and gov’t subsidy to get a degree in mktg/fin while working full time in the marketing and sales job. My school loans were $80K, dad paid for half, myself the other and it is paid off now. Going to a private school has made a huge difference in how much I make and the connections I have made in life, i.e. it was worth the $80K. I was promoted when I graduated into a marketing/corp sales job, with a free car and cell phone. I thought I was ballin making $26K a year! I then moved into telecom sales and made a closer to $35K. Then went into marketing in the mortgage industry making $50K, then led a marketing dept as a VP at a credit union making $65K, then moved into the Fortune 46 role making $135K a year as a VP in Marketing, plus a 20% annual bonus and had a 401K whereby I was contributing 15%, stocks and a pension plan with the Fortune 46 company I was employed by. Now I make $150K a year, plus an annual $20K bonus (net) minimum, stock options, pension plan, 401K max contributions, mortgage is $27K paid off and has about 8% equity in a bad economy. I have about $56K in savings. My next step is stocks and bonds.

    CAR: My 1st car got stolen twice and stripped completely. I couldn’t use insurance as it was too expensive. So bought a car for $4k and got hit by an 18 wheeler. Continued to drive it through JC as I couldn’t afford to do anything else. THEN my dad gave me his clunker when I went to the PAC 10. I rolled that until I was 27. Since then I bought 2 Fords, a BMW and a Benz and sold them all back. I got my money back for both the Benz and BMW because they were both lemons. So those depreciating costs were recouped. I went carless from 2006-2009, renting cars as needed for no more than $450 a month all in. January of this year I bought a Saturn Aura for $23K before they went out of business and got $10K off. The car is worth more than I paid for it even after drive off and extended warranty. I will drive it until the wheels fall off.

    PROPERTY: As for a home, I rented until the age of 34. I bought a condo conversion 2/2 unit with 1630sqft for $430K after a 10% condo conversion discount. I took the cash out vs the discount and got a jumbo loan for $395 and a 2nd for $90. I invested the cash into other real estate and made 25% off of it, which is a net gain of about 15% if you factor the interest being paid on the money. I should have used the money to immediately pay down the mortgage to offset the interest, but I was into “new money” and got a little excited about that. I then lost my job and was without work for 2 yrs, but had 10 months of severance that I immediately invested to carry me through and allow me to hold on to my property until I landed a job that would relo me and pay for the sale of my property. I deferred the sale of my property until this year as the economy was terrible. I now have 8% equity in it and can keep it and hold out for the big payday which could be as much as $300K including a $50K investment into remodeling, paying down the mortgage in the meantime and the gain as the economy gets better. The pros of selling now are I get 8% and can likely gain a lot more by investing that into something with a larger profit margin and I will have a $485K loan paid off on my credit which will boost it even higher than it is (700s).

    DEBT: I have about $20K in debt of which I will pay off with my tax refunds this year.

    I am and have been single with no kids. I still am nowhere near where I need to be because with all that I am still only holding a net worth of $210K (using equity in mortgage, 401K, and savings vs including the entire value of the home asset). And only $100K of that is in 401K. I am nearly 40, I should be at $450K plus in net worth according to standard which will get me “very limited retirement living after 65”. So I say invest and save all you can (interest gain), get married as early as you can (write offs and de-dupes living costs), wait on kids as long as you can, take risks at younger ages to yield higher returns, and spend as little as you can…or take the easy route and marry rich if you weren’t …born into it, lucky enough to have won something or worked hard and achieved financial success already.

    Assuming I live to at least 85 and live from 65-85 at a $100k a year income and am able to work FT at my salary or more until the age of 65, I will need to have saved at least $2MM to get me by. If I live longer than 85, obviously I need $100K more saved per year I live. At the rate I am going, I will only save about $1MM. And none of this assumes illness or other things that come into life like kids! So be safe and plan $100K min for everyone in your household come retirement. Also, keep in mind that 30-50 years from now the cost of living will be drastically higher and $100K may not get you more than poverty! But then again, you would be lucky to live that long…so thank God none the less.

    I rambeled, but share the level of insight that I would like to have and hope someone can gain from this and make some “right” turns instead of left turns!!

  25. Pat says:

    There are people out there doing it – I ‘stepped in it’ – I had a good programming job making 34k/year out of college in 1994. In 1998 the software I was working on got super popular and I was able to go out and work for myself and charge big companies $125/hour – and work full weeks(2000 hours per year) – so I was in my mid-20’s making 250k/year. Its 12 years later and I charge about the same rate – I’ve made in the area of 200k/year for 10 years and I’m still under 40. I have 400k in retirement and my wife has an additional 216k – plus we only owe 25k on our house purchased for 240k in 2003.

  26. Whatever says:

    Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it so.

  27. brian says:

    people on here are rich. I am 25 and make like 48,000 – what job do I need to go back to school for to make 100K when I’m thirty like these yahoos

    • tyler says:

      Love your comment. Totally Agree. Odd to see people who make in that 5% bracket of all Americans trying to tell the majority of people that make average incomes to stash $16.5k into their 401/yr. If that was 10% of your salary, big deal, but if it’s closer to 50 you have to get real.

    • ryan says:

      Yea no kidding I have a 4 year degree work all day at a “design” job then do freelance work for great money all night. My rent is $300, student loans 200$ and I can barely get ahead. My annual income might be 40k in the midwest uhg. depressing

  28. KB says:

    I would rather have my kids than 200k in my 401k. Can’t take the money with you after you die. We have enough to retire still but not 200k at age 30.

  29. Manski says:

    we have 2 kids in grade school and they are sucking a lot of money out of us

  30. Doug says:

    I am 29, wife is 28 and live in major east cost city. We have around $250k combined across 401k, IRAs and stock holdings and another $30k in cash savings. Our only debt is a mortgage.

    I think the keys are:

    * getting married early (24 for us) to combine income and eliminate redundant costs was HUGE

    * not having kids is huge

    * low student loan debt (we only had $20k total out of school and paid that off with a large one-time bonus)

    * maxing out 401k every year ($16,500) no matter what

    * reaching a lifestyle you can live with and trying hard not to ratchet up your consumption as income grows (we have a combined income of around $185k before tax, but live at about the same standard of living that we did at $120k).

    A lot of these factors are out of people’s control, so some is luck, some is discipline.

    And just a PS-many folks in Gen Y don’t do a cost-benefit analysis before doing things like going back to school. If you’re going to go back to school for a graduate degree, for the love of all that’s good, don’t quit your job to go full time. You will NEVER recoup the lost income and career momentum unless your diploma says MIT or some such. Wife and I both got MBAs part-time after work that were about 80% employer-funded and it turned out to be a great decision. Others who quit to go full-time are still looking for jobs.

  31. Andy says:

    I have no idea how these people have so much saved. If you have more than 75 grand in your 401k at 30, I would bet my 401k that you have more than 98% of all Americans.

    • ffx says:

      I think it has a lot to do with where you live. For example if you live in the east cost where salary and home prices both tend to be high, you have opportunity to gain more from home sales and save more from working.

    • Tara says:

      I agree. I have been saving since I was 23 (almost 31 now). I have only $28K in my 401K and $2K in my Roth. I am a part time Dental hygienist and a single mom…saving as much as I can but it’s worrying me that I don’t have much!

  32. Jerome says:

    If you are putting away $5000 a year and have your money sitting in index funds, you’re going to go nowhere fast.

  33. Mike says:

    I am amazed at how much some have in their retirement accounts. What kind of percentages of your income are you all saving? I am currently putting 4% into my company 401K with a 50% match. It will take me a long time (and good returns) to accumulate 200-300K in mine…

    • teddy says:

      Having no kids helps…

    • McShane says:

      I am saving 6% with a 6% match in a Roth 401(k) account. I also save 5k per year in my Roth IRA.

      I have been saving since I was 22 and turning 30 in April. I made around 75k at 22 and now make a shade over/under 100k depending on annual bonus payout.

      I now have 160k. It is a slow and steady process. Knowing I will have no tax bill at the end of it all is important to me as well.

  34. Manski says:

    I’m 40, my wife is 37. We have a combined $317K in 401k, $45K in CD, $6.5K in savings, $23K in brokerage, own some land in FL that the value of which has been shot, no car payments, no debt, $303K mortgage. We live in a good suburb of Minneapolis.

  35. Tim says:

    My wife and I are 30 years old, I make approx $92K/year she makes $32K/year our 401K (split between 401K & roth 401K) approx $119K, rothIRA $3K, emergency fund of $15.5K, brokerage account $10K. Own 3 cars (paid for) & home (25% equity), no other debt. She is about to stay at home after the birth of our second child. I think we are doing OK. Keep saving & never stop, live below your means

  36. ichimunki says:

    I am 31 and my husband is 35. Collectively, we have about $283k in our retirement accounts ($53k in mine and ~$230k in his). We don’t have a house and rent in Manhattan and are frantically putting away money in our savings accounts (currently at ~$230,000 collectively). I started working right out of college and my income started off at $9k in my first year (Americorp) and went up to $29k the next year and went up sporadically after that point. Currently, I make $80k and have just started to max out my 403b plan. My company contributes 4% of my salary to my 403b regardless employee contributions. I’m sad that I didn’t immediately start contributing to a retirement plan right out of college but I barely had money to spare and spent my funds paying down my student loans and credit card debt. We are now loan and debt free!!! My husband makes a lot more than me and is definitely instrumental in keeping our net worth high but I’m happy that I can hold my own relatively.

  37. Doug Latimer says:

    I graduated in 97 with a B.S. in Accounting from a major state school. My first salary was 40K/year. To the first guy who commented, starting salaries for college grads in finance/accounting are now 50K. It is easily doable. Just go to school.

  38. TOM says:

    We are 30. We have about 150k saved up jointly in 401k. Max mine out and continue to invest taxed earnings in at 5% deduction after the 15,500.00 is reached. A portion of liquid/emergency savings goes in high yield (completely laughable with current rates) like an orange account, the rest is invested into index funds that can be cashed out should a life line be required.

  39. John says:

    Im 30, make over 100k each year, and between my wife and I, we have saved about 800K so far although I would be bored senseless If I retired early.

  40. Big Jim says:

    I’m 25 and make 55K a year. I contribute the max into my Roth IRA (currently 5K/yr) and also max my companies 401K up to the match. I have saved a liquid emergency savings fund as well. I have 9K in my Roth IRA, 5.5K in my company 401K and 10K for the emergency savings.

    I thought I was doing well, but I now feel that, if not behind, I’m certainly not ahead of the game.

    I need to stop drinking so much. :)

  41. Shawna says:

    I have been putting 300 a month into a roth ira but over three years I have lost 151 bucks. I am wondering if I should stop the roth IRA and put it in a money market getting 1.7% guaranteed interest?

    • Jeff says:

      Roth is still the way to go. If you want the stability of a money market, check with your bank about investing your Roth IRA balance in Certificates of Deposit. My local bank is offering 1.6% on 12 month IRA up to 2.9% on 60 month IRA.

  42. Shawna says:

    I have the amount of savings as a 25 year old in my 401k but am turning 28. Make 53,000 but 8,000 of my take home goes to daycare expense. I am a single mom no child support and have 6,000 in a roth IRA too which is the vehicle I selected to save for my daughters college. She is only 2.5 years old. I have also paid off my house which was only 55,000 and VERY SMALL but mine. I got my BS at 22 and then went for my MS got out at 24 then finally joined the workforce so I have only been working for 4 years. I would really like to beef up my retirement but I also want a bigger house in a better school district.

  43. ffx says:

    I am 34. Started 401k at 23 and contributed till I was 31 (left my job January 07). I started with 10% and eventually increased it to 20%. Company matching was 6% – dollar for dollar. I contributed to Roth for the last 6 years or so, the max amount. I traveled to many countries, finished graduate school, and finally rejoined the job force in July 2008 (90k). New company doesn’t have 401k. My old 401k balance is slowly recovering and is now 160k (was 220k at some point beginning of 2007). Roth is recovering back to 25k. I also have savings, includes real estate sale proceeds equal to 130k, I also own primary and investment properties. Investment property pays 95% of both my mortgages. I feel like I am missing out by not contributing to a 401k. What are my options?

  44. Manski says:

    I”m 40 years old IT professional making $84K/yr. I have been contributing to my 401k since I was 28. I now have $195K. I do think I’m a little behind.

  45. I’m 26 and have never had a 401k plan. For whatever reason the companies I’ve worked for haven’t offered them (even without a match) and I’m so confused about where to save my money for retirement. I max out my Roth IRA each year but the limits on that are pretty low. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

  46. Ryan says:

    I’m currently 23 and have $8,700 in a Roth IRA and $1,000 in a 401k from a previous employer. I did this just bartending after college for a year. Currently I work at a company making $30k.

    It’s good to see where others are when they’re 30 as something to work towards.

  47. dd says:

    get out of manhattan
    rent in astoria is $850/month and its a HUGE apt with a balcony. subway to work is 40 minutes. city aint worth it!

  48. Kandy says:

    Jeff – I’m curious, where do you live? One big differentiating factor that no one seems to be discussing is cost of living. I’m seriously impressed by what you have accomplished financially on your salary. I am 26, make $65k a year and although I am saving substantially in my 401k (contribute 7% which my company matches 100%), it is literally impossible for me to save elsewhere. I really don’t have any disposable income. More than half my take-home pay goes to rent alone, which is relatively cheap compared to my friends ($1260/mth.) Am I really hurting myself by living in Manhattan? David – advice for ppl in my situation? I guess move or make more money, huh?

  49. Jeff says:

    I am 30, a single father of a 12 year old girl, started making $21k when I was 20, put myself through school, bought a house, have an investment property, took trips to England, France, Italy and Walt-Disney 3 times, go to great concerts, enjoy good food and have more than $200,000 in my 401k. I started contributing when I was 21 and my company matches up to 6%. The key for me was whenever I got a raise, 1/2 went to me and the other 1/2 went to the 401k. That way, I still saw my raise and didn’t miss the additional contribution. My salary is $68k now and I contribute 20% to 401k. You can do this!!!

  50. Craig says:

    In response you can save a lot and also live a lot by 30. Just because someone has saved 270k by 30 doesn’t mean they haven’t spent a ton too. All depends on income…..

  51. Nick says:

    Hi i am 23 year old recent college grad who has been working for 5 months now making 43k (my first 13 weeks i made 40k). My company matches up to $750 and i currently only have $50 with my percentage at 3%.

    Should i up my referral percentage until i reach the company match of $750 in order to maximize my company match as much as possible? what should my % be?

    I appreciate the feedback.

    Thank you.

  52. retireein2045 says:

    hello, I am 28 and make 30k a year.I have 3,000 in my 401k and am maxed out on my roth ira for 08, 09.Also have emergency fund of 10k and another 30k in savings.If anyone can help me with allocating these assets plese reply.I live below my means and only buy what I need.currently in school to pursue software engineer bs.I am open to any and all investment ideas.

  53. Jessc098 says:

    Read your article and now I’m depressed. I was right on track with where I should be, and now 19 months from “30” my 401K was halved by the recession. Oh dangit. I know, I know, it’s shares and I’ve got loads of time to gain it all back, but it still feels awful. I worked and saved SO hard! If I was going to loose that much, I should have just bought a sportscar. At least that would have been fun!

  54. James says:

    I am 23 going on 24 and with the most recent events in the stock world, I have lost roughly 50% of my money. I am, however, not in the least bit worried about the rapid decline, but i am looking forward to the incline (it doesnt bother me to purchase when shares are cheap). As or right now i have roughly $19,000 in 401(k). I put in 12% of a $60,000 salary. My company puts in 9%. I was wondering if anyone had a hypothetical on where i would be at in terms of dollars and cents around retirement age (im shooting for 55, but who isnt?) Even if my salary stays the same and the percentages stay the same. And how much should i expect to have when i do retire? 2 mil? 3 mil? I just need to know what else i should invest and where i should invest it.

  55. Brian says:

    Hi gang, Love the blog….My name is Brian and my wife and are are 33. We have been BIG savers for years. We have about 200k total in retirement savings.
    Recently, we bought/rehabbed a lake house in Wisconsin, but the best part is we just paid it off….Together we make just over 200k combinded and plan to pay off our primary residence in under 2 yrs. I prefer to save about 90% of the money we make..We take shortcuts on things so we can enjoy the bigger things.

  56. CPI_Manager says:

    I’m 26 years old. I make 80K and have about 15K in my 401K plan. I think that by the time I’m 30, I will make 100K and will have about 50K in my plan. Most people get help from their parents by living at home and saving money. Since I’m first generation in the USA, I had to care for myself since 17. A friend of my has 120K in his 401K and he is only 27 years old (he lived rent free for 7 years with his parents). It all depends on your situation and some people are more fortunate then others.

  57. fogged in says:

    WOW – I thought I was doing good at 28 years, making ends meet, credit card debt free and only 20K in student loans to go…I started my 401K only this year. I was curious how I stood in the game of life with my peers and you all blew me away. However, I too agree with Ryan and Shawn. I’ve traveled this beautiful country countless times, I eat at killer restaurants, drink great wine, smoke great dope, and I surround myself with people I love, and I am enjoying every second of my “twenty-something” life – that is what counts to me I now realize.

  58. JOSH says:

    I am 21 years old, single and anually make $32k. I bought a new car in which I was upside down on Big Mistake!! My company offers 401k with 100% matching up to 7%. I have not started my 401k yet, I am getting married in the near future and income will almost triple. Should I wait until I get married to start my 401k and try to pay my car down as much as I can? Or should I concentrate on putting as much as I can In the 401k? I already pay extra on the car, I also need to save for house supplies for when I do get hitched, I live with my father now.Life is expensive. HELP!! Good opinions appreciated…

    • Ken says:

      Always contribute up to the employer’s matching. In your case 7%. That’s free money!!! Any other savings should go in a Roth IRA account or invest in individual stocks at a young age.

  59. shawn says:

    I agree Ryan…my wife and I save 10% each in 401k plus roths, and savings but some posters seem obsessed with saving as do some of my relatives.

    FYI..you can’t take it with you. Save away people. I just try to NOT be broke. My friends who are big savers are the same people that I call cheap…never contribute to pay for gas, help out with food etc for gatherings….It really kinda stinks that they so worried about savings that they rather not contribute their portions to different events. Stinks! Trying not to stereotype but big savers and braggers typically are the ones that think they are smart sliding out of paying for the good times in life.

  60. Ryan says:

    Half of me congratulates most some of you on being well ahead of the curve for saving and the other half of me wonders (guesses) how insanely boring and frugle you must be.

    30 yrs old and saved 270k? Jeez live a little, travel, blow some $ on nice dinners, concerts, and buy some works from emerging artists (another form of investment btw). You could get hit by a bus tomorrow and your 401k won’t follow you to the afterlife!

  61. […] The average twenty something has less than $15,000 in retirement investments, if any at all. While your 401(k) balance may be ugly for a while, you can be assured that even if the grim economic situation continues, you […]

  62. Rick says:

    “Your contributions, up to the legal maximum 15%, should be just large enough to feel uncomfortable.”

    Did anyone else notice that the author made an incorrect statement here? I am 30 years old and my current 401k deferral is 23%. There is no “legal maximum” of 15%. I think he meant $15,000 (which is now $15,500).

    My employer matches the first 7.5% dollar for dollar. This means that 30.5% of my salary ($20,500) is currently added to my 401k every year ($15,500 deferral + $5000 employee contribution). Between my 401(k) deferrals, my wife’s 403(b) deferrals, we avoid about $9,000 in federal tax every year. When its removed prior to direct deposit, you don’t even miss it.

    The key here: LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS.

  63. Scott says:

    I am closing in on 32 years old and make a little over 100k and have 105k in in 401k. It bothers my that I did not setup my 401k until I was 25 (3 years after I started working). I maxed out my 401k each of the past 3 years and plan to do that for the rest of my working career. My new company rocks they put 12% of my salary in my 401k while I put 15% (max in 2008 is 15,500 for my portion of the contributions).

  64. Ant says:

    I am 27 years old and my wife is 26. Combined we have approx. $180k in our 401k. I consider myself in a good position since my house is 3/4 paid of and both cars are paid off. I am actually worth something now (finally no matter how messed up that sounds).

  65. Meredith says:

    I’m 29, and am contributing 7% to 401k for only the last 2 years, was doing 3-4% for the other 5 years. I only have 13K in 401k. However, I have $20,000 in savings. I am torn over whether to put that into a RothIRA, or some other type of fund like cd’s. I only earn $30,000, with not too much leeway in terms of yearly raises. Any ideas? I was thinking of contacting Suze Orman about what to do!

  66. PeterD says:

    I’ve been fastidious in my saving, not just for retirement but for my personal savings account as well.

    I have $33K in retirement accounts (401K, roth, IRA) and $27K in CDs and checking accounts. Make $95K a year.

  67. Craig says:

    I am 31 and my wife is 30. We have been very fortunate and have been able to save approx 270,000 in retirement combined over the last 8 years.

  68. thebaglady says:

    Hey Tom,

    You’re welcome to read my blog to find out the answers to your questions. :)


  69. Dave says:

    I am very impressed with the posters on this site, definitely the exception than the norm in terms of savings. I am 28 make about 95k a year and have only a total of 20k in a combination of a roth 401k and a regular 401k, which I contribute 3% respectively. My employer matches 100% up to 3%. My salary has dramatically increased in the last 2 years (reason for the low amount in my 401k) and I expect it will increase at least 25-50 in the next few years. My only suggestion to everyone is to have a rainy day fund invested in a liquid product/security (cd or savings account) of about 10k. From first hand experience, life will throw you some curveballs and that 10k will provide a nice security blanket.

  70. ronka says:

    I am 42 years old. I have $130,000 in my 401k plan and my annual salary is $110,000. I know the amount in my 401k is way too low for my age but I am not sure just how high it should be. I have a high mortgage and a car payment but not too much credit card debt. I do have a large home equity loan as well. My employer only matches 25% up to 5% contributed.

  71. “My rule of thumb for setting a retirement saving goal? Your contributions, up to the legal maximum 15%”
    I do not think there is a 15% legal maximum. My last company allowed 50% pretax, and my current allows 20%. Legal maximum was 15.5k.

    I’m 25 and have been working almost 2 years. I have about 16k in my 401k and another 6k in a Roth. I think by the time I’m 30, I want 100k in retirement. My salary hopefully will also have increased to about 100k as well, if I earn my MS degree while working.

  72. Tom says:

    Baglady, your situation is very impressive, do you mind elaborating on it? What profession are you in that you are able to make 90k a year after only 2.5 years of work experience? Do you live in an area with a high cost of living? Did you have to deal with any debt (i.e. student loans)?

    As for myself, I recently turned 22 and only have ~1.4k in a mixture of Roth 401k and regular 401k, but I’m planning on putting my money (~100/month) into a Roth IRA after getting the most out of my company’s 401k matching. I’m also focusing lots of my income on killing off my student loans, which I hope to pay off within a few years.

  73. Stan says:

    Yes, baglady, grad school is a key variable. I barely had $15k when I turned 30, having not finished my PhD until turning 28 and having acquired some school-related debts. At age 37, though, my quarterly dividends already would cover 70% of my monthly expenses (though, obviously, at this young age I still reinvest dividends rather than taking them in cash). Since I’m currently spending less than 1/3 of my monthly income, I’m estimating I’ll hit the point where dividends cover 100% of my expenses by around 41-42. At that point work really becomes all about “self-actualization”.

    If I could do it all over, I still wouldn’t dream of trading in my grad school years just so I could have a job at 21 and gain an extra 7 years of compounding.

    So as a former grad student I think the question of “how much you should have by age 30” is pretty uninteresting. I’d be equally interested in asking “how much should you have in your Roth IRA by age 17?”

  74. the baglady says:

    That’s a pretty good measurement. Though, some people start working later because of graduate school so they may save less and a lot of companies I know don’t have 401k matching. I’m almost 25 and have been contributing to my 401k since I graduated. So after 2.5 years I have a bit over 32k (I contributed about 10000 to 14000 a year with no matching). I am making around 90k a year now so hopefully in 5 years I will have over $100k in my 401k.

  75. I just turned 23, and I hope to have $200k in my accounts in 6 years through regular contributions. Only time will tell if I will achieve that.

  76. Brandon says:

    I’m 24 and contribute 10% into my 401k my plan. My company matches 6%, and I also contribute about $2000 annually to a roth ira. Right now my savings are around $21,000 between both these accounts. By the time I am 30, I hope to shout I have well over $100,000 between the two.

  77. Aaron says:

    Im 24 years old and have been investing since ’04 i just recently increase my contribution to 6% and have accumulated $7000 between 401k and company profit sharing. Im ignorant when it comes to these 2 accounts. What is the difference between them both and what is the best way to diversify my portfolio to get the best bang for my buck in the long run??

  78. Charlie says:

    To Chris:

    If you have $100k in the bank, perhaps the best way to invest, if your currently renting, is to buy a small house or condo. If you already have your own place. Go ahead and open an investment account with the big guys, Vanguard or Fidelty. Slowly put your money into an IRA account.

    If you’re going long term, you need to stay above a 6% return rate.

  79. Troy says:

    I’m 31 now, and I don’t stack up even close compared to my salary. My salary has double 3 times since I began working (21 years old with 16,700). I’m finally able to contribute much, much more to retirement, now that I’ve paid off loans. When I’m 40, I project that I’ll have over $200,000 in my 401(k). Oh, and I’ve since moved to a Roth 401(k) because I’m now considered an HCE (Highly Compensated Employee).

    Of course, salaries are higher now in general than the were 10 years ago when I started working (keeping in mind that 16,700 was way under par even for that time). I would like to see high schools teach money management rather than some of the blow-off classes that are out there right now. That might have changed my circumstances quite a bit.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that it is important to save anything you can at a young age and let compounding interest work for you. You may not see a big difference in 10 years, but down the road it will make a huge difference.

    The other thing I’d like to point out is the importance of paying off debt. Just because you are contributing to your retirement doesn’t mean that you are going to be ok. The best thing you can do is get rid of that debt while you are contributing. That allows you to put much, much more away than you would otherwise.

  80. SAFIYA says:

    I’m 30 Years old, nd i have been in the workforce for about 5 years, but cold only contribte the last four. I have about 18k in my retirement, and about 6k in savings.
    My goal is to save as much as i can at an early age. I recently got a promotion, and will be making 71k. i am putting all of the extra money in retirement and a house, the best investment ever. I always wondered how i compared to others my age, i’m a litte behind most of you guys, but i still know i am doing well at this age.

  81. Jason says:

    I started work in 2001 at age 22 and did not contribute to my 401k until 2003. After graduation, I only made 27k/year and did not have additional funds to invest–credit card debt will burn up any extra cash you may have. Fortunately, my employer matches 100% up to 6%. I currently invest 8% of my 68,000 salary and with my employer’s contribution, my monthly 401k saving is $800, which I think is good. I am almost 29 and have about $50,000 in my plan. If you can do it, I would invest as much as possible as early as you can. I regret not saving immediately after college. I also recommend increasing your saving percentage as you get wage increases, bonuses, or promotions.

  82. James says:

    I’m 30. Working since 2000. ~55 K in retirement savings. 90 K per year in salary. It is not easy to make and save money. I encourage all to save for someday you might need it.

    • CGarmond says:

      I must be in the wrong profession or maybe I need to put my networking abilities into good use. Almost everyone that has posted comments makes over 60K and they’re under 30. Wow!! I’m 28, I’m a Sr Graphic Designer and I make 45K. I don’t contribute as much as I should because I have loans that I’m taking care of. I’m married and I don’t have any children.

  83. Chris says:

    I have recently turned 30 years old, am not married and have no kids. I don’t quite match the above table, since my work life did not start as even as the table shows. I live very modestly, drive a used car, can fortunately repair it myself and I rent an upper flat. Don’t get me wrong though, I do like to travel and have fun, I just watch how much I spend.

    I did not start contributing to a 401K until I was 27. I am currently at around $15,000, as I contribute 6% of $62,000 Salary and get 50% company match. I managed to also save on my own over $100,000 (started with only $50 to my name 10 years ago) and I invest it in CD’s and a IMM account at approx 5%. I don’t think I am doing too bad despite the list above.

    Should I be going about my savings a different way? I’d like to get the best return, but I don’t like to risk my hard earned cash.


  84. Patti says:

    It would be great if there was a way to plug in your salary (or combined salary if married) and age (again, average age if married) into some type of calculator to compare to your 401(k) balance. I am 42 years old and thankfully make more than $30k but still would like to do a health check on my investment balances. Does anyone know of such a calculator?

  85. Tammy says:

    I’m a 30 year old married female without children that makes 44,000 a year. I have also been contributing to my 401k since I was 21 and my numbers are a little better than shown above. My savings is actually higher than my current income, so I must be doing well.

    I do agree with Vanessa that it is possible for anyone to save when you prioritize, knowing however that some people whom have children will have a much more difficult time.

    Making good choices in life certainly bring their rewards.


  86. Vanessa says:

    I’m a 26 year old single female that makes about 36,000 a year. I have been contributing money in my 401k account since I was 21 yrs old and my numbers are pretty close to the table shown above as far as income and retirement savings.

    Let me also add that I had also purchased a new car when I was 21 (never again will I buy a new car, instead buy used) and then was fortuate to purchase a condo when I was 22 years old. This is very attainable you just have to budget your money right.

    Now that I have paid off my car I am socking away 15% of my income into my 401k account.

    Anyone can do this, you just have to prioritize what is most important to you. You may have to make some sacrifise but it it well worth it in the long run.

    Wishing everyone great success and to live like noone else!

    God Bless,

    Vanessa C.
    Orlando, FL

    • Corey James says:


      What industry are you currently working in? I am in the Orlando area as well and have a BS degree in Finance from UCF. I have had a terrible time finding an opportunity to make over 30k. I am curious what other young professionals are doing to secure these higher-paying jobs. Most people I have spoken to that are in a better position say they got their job because they knew someone.

  87. Phool 4 Money says:

    I wish I had a job that paid $30k @ 22 years old. I don’t know too many people that fall into your category.
    I know this is a matter of demographics.
    Raises are not what they used to be. Especially with the price of everyday items (ie gas, heating oil, food, etc) going up at a much faster rate than the 3% raise.
    Did this person in your example have to buy a car or house?
    I just feel this is truely unrealistic.

    • Buddy says:

      Government…that’s all I need to say.

      They recruited me from college @ $40k. Started matching after 6 months, and fro the first 4 years, I get something like a 25% raise on the Accelerated Career Development Path. I should make around $55k in the next month or two.

      People can bitch about the government all they want, but they take care of the employees.

      • neteng says:

        Actually, many jobs in a major metropolitan area that require a bachelors degree pay easily over $30k a year at an entry level position. It also depends on your industry and education. For example, I am a 23 year old network engineer in the Washington DC metro area and starting salary is $50k

  88. […] Money Under 30 tells us How Much Should Be In Your 401k at 30? […]