This Is the Average 401(k) Balance for Ages 55 to 64

It can be a bit counterproductive to compare your retirement portfolio's value to someone else's. No two people's circumstances are exactly the same, after all. The financial situation you're creating for yourself should, first and foremost, work for you.

Still, knowing where your peers stand can help you gauge your own progress and tell you if you should be doing more.

Even those closest to retirement, 55- to 64-year-olds, can still take steps to address funding shortfalls. And numbers gathered by mutual fund company and retirement plan administrator Vanguard offer these near-retirees a good idea of how their cohort is doing on the retirement savings front.

Here's the average 401(k) balance for near-retirees

The numbers in question are based on account data for participants in Vanguard's corporate retirement plans. There are a handful of different types of plans, but by and large, these are going to be 401(k) accounts, the most common employer-sponsored retirement savings option. Although Vanguard's data doesn't consider individuals' other savings (like a traditional or Roth IRA), a 401(k) is likely to account for a significant chunk of most peoples' savings.

Vanguard's number-crunching indicates the average 401(k) balance for people between the ages of 55 and 64 currently stands at $207,874.

Surprised? Maybe even a little frustrated that you're in this age bracket yet your retirement account's value is nowhere near this figure?

If so, don't beat yourself up too much. Remember, this is just the average. In this case, the numbers making up the average are top-heavy -- a relatively small number of people is skewing the amount upward. While 401(k) millionaires do exist, they're relatively rare. A more meaningful figure here is the median 401(k) balance, which Vanguard says is a markedly lower $71,168.

A person sits in front of a laptop with their hand on their forehead.

Image source: Getty Images.

Also bear in mind there's a significant difference between the savings someone can feasibly accumulate by the time they're 55 years old versus when they're 64. At the younger end of this range, there's a good chance an individual is still paying off a mortgage or helping children pay for school. At the older end of the scale, most people are still earning good money, while reduced expenses may allow them to keep and invest more of their income.

Nevertheless, the median 401(k) balance of $71,168 and even the average of $207,874 still don't seem like enough for these near-retirees at this stage in their lives. What can be done to shore up the gap between the amount they need and the amount they have?

Actually, doing a few simple things can readily improve this situation.

Four steps to securing a stronger retirement

Regardless of how your retirement portfolio's value compares to Vanguard's figures, you probably want to make the most of your golden years. But how does one find a reasonable balance between paying for the here and now and ensuring you have enough saved for retirement? There are four important steps you'll want to take.

1. Figure out how much you actually need in retirement

Many people are saving as much as they feasibly can for retirement, and that's certainly not an unreasonable mindset to adopt.

Creating and then sticking with savings habits is much easier, however, when there's a defined goal in mind. That's why you'll want to come up with a specific savings target for the first day of your retirement.

The latest data from Northwestern Mutual suggests people believe they'll need nearly $1.5 million to live comfortably in retirement, although it's absolutely possible to enjoy a great retirement with less. Remember, Social Security will supplement your savings too.

2. Work your way backward to determine how to save up that amount

Got that target number in mind? Great. Now figure out how much you'll need to contribute each and every month between now and your retirement to reach that goal.

Don't try to do this math in your head, or even on paper or in a spreadsheet. There are a variety of online calculators available to help you with retirement planning. These financial calculators can tell you how much you should save over time to hit your target number while also factoring in the potential growth of your invested contributions.

3. Take an honest look at your lifestyle's unnecessary costs

While it's possible a projection of your required contributions between now and retirement will be a modest number, odds are good you'll end up needing to save more than you expect. This means taking an honest look at your current spending and figuring out which costs you can cut.

Tip: The more detailed you can make your current monthly budget, the easier it is to cull it. For instance, you may be shocked at how much you're spending on streaming services every month, with many of these streaming services being mostly unused. Restaurant dining is another big expense that often easily gets away from people.

4. Adjust as needed

Finally, even the best laid retirement plans need to be updated on a regular basis. Circumstances change, after all. Sometimes for the better; sometimes for the worse. But for reasons that are often out of your control, fully funding a retirement is a moving target.

You'll also want to remember that one such adjustment you can make is the day you retire. Although most people don't want to push their retirement date back, working just another year could make a noticeable difference in how you're able to live in retirement.

Just start somewhere, with any plan

Overwhelmed by the whole idea? Maybe you don't have time right now to map out every detail.

That's OK. You don't have to complete all four steps in one fell swoop, and your plan doesn't have to be perfect right now. The key is just starting somewhere as soon as you can, even with only a partial plan. Then, worry about the next step, and then the step after that, and then the step after that. Even small actions create momentum, making it easier to take bigger, more meaningful actions later.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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