Video: Retirement nest egg

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/14/2005 7:33:36 PM ET 2005-03-15T00:33:36

In the game of life, saving for retirement is No. 2 on Terry and John Bank's list of priorities. No. 1 is their children — college for the two oldest boys and extra care for Michael, who has Down syndrome.

“I don't think we're ever going to have enough to be able to retire and live the way we want to,” says Terry.

“We're putting away what we can. But we're not sure if that's going to be enough,” adds John.

Conventional wisdom says you need 70 to 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your lifestyle, but now, former New York Times business editor Fred Brock says that's just a myth perpetuated by the financial services industry.

“Something like 40 to 45 percent is much more realistic than 70 to 80 percent,” says Brock, author of the book "Retire on Less Than You Think."

That's if you're willing to change your lifestyle, like Brock.

He lives in Manhattan. But rather than Manhattan, N.Y., it’s now Manhattan, Kan. — where everything from taxes to insurance is cheaper.

“Cutting expenses increases your income,” says Brock.

And moving can help, from a high-cost area like San Francisco, where the average home price tops $641,000 to somewhere like Jacksonville Fla., where it's $150,000.

“Same house, different place, less money. Sell the house in San Fran, buy the house free and clear in Jacksonville or wherever, and then you have not only no mortgage, but you have some money in the bank to produce an income,” says Brock.

While Brock's income estimate is controversial, he and other experts insist you must still try to save what you can — an area where Americans fall woefully short.

“People really have so little in the way of personal savings,” says Alicia Munnel, who heads Boston College's Center for Retirement Research. “The average family now, approaching retirement, has about $35,000 in personal savings.”

Terry and John are putting away the maximum in his 401(k) and sticking to a budget — trying to provide for the here and now and the future while still wondering how much will really be enough.

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