Women often need to save more for retirement

Life expectancy, health care costs, and career interruptions can be contributing factors to why we need more. Our new series, Women Talk Money, can help.

Checklist for now and in the future

Whether you're new to the workforce or approaching retirement, we'll help guide you throughout your career and beyond.

Starting out

It can be a challenge to juggle financial responsibilities like rent, student loans, and everyday expenses—not to mention saving for your future. Fidelity can help you establish strong financial habits to last a lifetime.

  1. Set your goals and manage your budget.
    When creating goals, you need to identify what you want to do and how much money you'll need to do it. From nonessential items, like saving for a vacation, to the more essential, like paying rent, goals can be recurring, or years away like saving for retirement. So once you define your goals, you should build your budget around them, and don't forget to leave some room for an emergency fund. Use our 50/15/5 rule to see how your actual savings and spending compares to Fidelity's budgeting guidelines.
  2. Build a plan to reach your goals.
    Once you figure out your budget, it's time to create a plan to reach your goals, which could include buying a plane ticket to a friend's wedding, saving for the down payment on your first home, or funding your retirement. Having a set plan will help you reach your goals faster. And don't think you have to go it alone—talk with an advisor about the goals that are farther away.
  3. Enroll in your workplace savings plan and automate your retirement contributions.
    Retirement is the longest vacation you will take, su start planning now. Fidelity suggests saving 15% annually for retirement, which includes any amount your employer may kick in. Be sure to save enough to get the maximum eligible employer match—and, if possible, try to save even more. Workplace retirement plans also offer tax advantages and can be set up as an automatic payroll deduction. Don't have access to a workplace savings plan or want to save more for retirement? You can save through a variety of IRA plans.
  4. Avoid taking a loan from your workplace savings plan.
    Although it may be tempting, think very carefully before you borrow against your 401(k) or 403(b). Once you pull money out of your retirement plan, you’ll lose out on the longer-term growth potential; not to mention the potential taxes and penalty fees you may have to endure. And there are other risks to take into consideration—for example, if you were to change employers you may have to repay the loan in full within 2 months. Take a look at 3 things to know before you borrow from your retirement savings account (PDF).
  5. Track your retirement savings.
    Retirement is just one of your goals, and it's a big one. Fidelity has a suggested guideline to break this down into age-based milestones. We recommend having saved 1x your salary by the age of 30 and 2x your salary by the age of 35. Learn more about these milestones and see how you are tracking.

Moving up

As you advance in your career, it's important to stay focused on ways to make your money grow while protecting what you've already built.

  1. Establish an emergency fund.
    Emergencies happen, so having savings set aside to tap into at a moment's notice is important. Fidelity recommends an emergency fund to cover 3 to 6 months of essential expenses, from daily expenses to loan and credit card payments.
  2. Max out your contributions and track your retirement savings progress.
    If your employer offers an employee match in your workplace savings plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), take advantage of the maximum allowable amount. At a minimum, Fidelity recommends saving 15% of your pretax income (including any employer contributions) per year. Once you max out your 401(k) or 403(b) contributions, look into additional savings with an IRA. Remember to continually check that you are on target with your retirement savings goal. By age 40, Fidelity recommends saving 3x your salary, and by age 50, saving 6x your salary. Learn more about these milestones and see how you're doing.
  3. Save for education.
    Every family has different savings goals when it comes to higher education. Learn more about this suggestion and try our College Savings Calculator to see how you're doing. Just getting started or looking to help a young student in your life? A 529 college savings account is one tax-advantaged way to save.
  4. Protect what you've built.
    You've been working hard to save and invest for your goals. Should anything happen to you, it's important to have a plan in place for your loved ones. If you don't have a will, power of attorney, and a health care proxy, now is the time to get those documents in place.

Nearing retirement

You've worked hard at your career and at building your retirement plan. It's time to start thinking about enjoying the benefits of your efforts.

  1. Make catch-up contributions.
    Take advantage of catch-up contributions which let you invest even more for retirement in a tax-advantaged way. Starting in the year you turn 50, you'll be able to contribute an additional $6,000 per year toward your 401(k) or 403(b), plus another $1,000 toward an IRA. You don't even have to wait for your 50th birthday: Start any time during that calendar year.
  2. Picture what retirement will look like.
    Everyone has a different idea of what retirement will look like. For some it may be spending more time with family; for others it could mean volunteering more. No matter what you're thinking, it's important to involve your loved ones in your vision. Try to be specific about the "who, what, where, when, and why" for your plans. Once you start talking about your future, you can set goals for how to get there.
  3. Know what Social Security benefits you're entitled to receive.
    Many underestimate what their Social Security benefits could be and how they fit into their retirement income strategy. It's important to understand not just when to claim benefits, but how. And if you're divorced, did you know you might be able to claim an ex-spouse's benefits? We can help you figure it out. Check out Fidelity's Social Security webcast for answers to several key questions on claiming Social Security.
  4. Understand Medicare.
    Medicare will help you pay your health care expenses after age 65. Many people think it's free, but that's not correct. It's important to enroll on time so you're not stuck paying penalties for life. Get to know these critical facts well before you retire. Fidelity's Medicare webcast will answer many of your questions and point you in the right direction as you navigate this benefit.
  5. Create a retirement income plan.
    Saving for retirement is very different from living in retirement. A retirement income plan helps you figure out how to generate a retirement "paycheck" from your hard-earned savings and investments. Start with a rough draft as you get into your 50s. Fidelity can help you build a plan, for free.
  6. Track your retirement savings progress.
    By age 50, Fidelity suggests you should have saved 6 times your current salary and 8 times by age 60. By the time you reach age 67, you should have at least 10 times your ending salary put away for retirement expenses. Keep in mind this 10x figure may come from a combination of your workplace savings plan, your personal investments (such as an IRA), or a pension.

Have an annual financial checkup

Just like you go to the doctor for an annual physical, you should do the same for your financial health. An annual financial planning conversation with an advisor will help you stay on target and reach your goals. You may have access to free help or advice through your workplace retirement plan, so it’s not a bad idea to find out.