Average Retirement Income 2016: How Does it Compare to Your Plans?

The average retirement income is probably a lot less than you think. As surprising as it might sound, the average American’s retirement income is barely over $1,500 per month or about $18,000 annually, according to the Pension Rights Center.
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Depending on where you live, that might not even pay the mortgage, not to mention all of the other necessities of life. And according to Fox News, it doesn’t meet projected needs of baby boomers even by half. Based on self-reported information, most boomers will need closer to $5,000 monthly.

Looking for the latest figures? Check out our 2017 update!

How does your income compare? Is there anything you can do to improve your financial prospects?

Average Retirement Income Beats Poverty, but Barely

Retirees with average retirement income are barely better off than people living in poverty.

The Institute for Research on Poverty says that the Department of Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines for 2013 ranks a single-person household as meeting the poverty level if income is $1,102.50 monthly or less. This guideline determines eligibility for certain social assistance programs, and it’s only about $300 less than the median retirement income.

Census bureau information gives a lower poverty threshold of $980 monthly for a single adult, which is well below median retirement income. This statistic denotes actual poverty, not just eligibility for assistance. That’s slightly better news for half of retirees, but it doesn’t help $1,500 stretch any further. And the other half of the median line might be in dire straits.

Where Does Most Retirement Income Come From?

According to the Pension Rights Center, older adults get retirement income from the following sources:

  • Social Security: 85 percent of people 65 and older get Social Security. The average Social Security income in 2014 was not quite $1,300, according to Smart Asset.
  • Assets: Sixty-three percent of retirees rely on assets for retirement income. According to Retirement USA, the median amount of asset income for households where either the householder or spouse was aged 65 or older was $1,542 for those households who received any asset income. In 2008 59 percent of older households had income from assets.”
  • Pensions: A mere 32 percent of us have pensions and this number is trending further downward.
  • Earnings: 23 percent of older Americans have work income. According to the AARP, the median income earned by retirees from work is $25,000 a year. Note, this is the highest amount of any income source.
  • Public Assistance or Veteran’s Benefits: About 7 percent of retirees are getting help from government sources.

As you can see, retirees today are more dependent than ever before on Social Security income. One of the biggest problems with that approach, aside from the fact that the program isn’t incredibly stable, is that Social Security was never intended to be a primary source of income. It was intended as a boost.

How Does Your Retirement Income Compare to People in Your Zip Code?

Whether or not your retirement income will afford you the life that you want partly depends on where you live. Some places are just a lot more expensive than other places.

You can get a quick and easy comparison by using the NewRetirement Retirement Calculator. In addition to being one of the most comprehensive and useful retirement calculators — really more like a virtual financial advisor — the tool can instantly tell you how your income, expenses, assets, debt and net worth compare to other people in your zip code.

Enter your information and the calculator shows you how you stack up.

Maybe comparing your plan to others doesn’t seem important right now, but it can reveal major shortcomings. If most of the people in your area are far ahead, you can investigate why and make adjustments to how you save now. Or it might show the opposite. Maybe you’re ahead of the game and can relax a bit in knowing that you’ve got a plan that works.

So, How Are People Making Ends Meet with Average Retirement Income?

Most retirees collect Social Security and make up the difference for excess expenses by withdrawing funds from savings — if they are lucky enough to have savings.

A better idea is to have a specific spending and income plan for your retirement. Most of us are not very good at budgeting. And living month to month works okay when you are working, but having a clear budget and a solid plan is more important when you are retired.

By definition, your resources are more limited when you retire.

How Can You Boost Your Average Retirement Income?

So maybe you’ve examined your financial plan and found that it needs a little improvement. There are ways to manage that at any stage of the game.

If you’re still very young, adjusting will be easier. Max out your 401(k) contributions or start an IRA, and keep up the contributions, and you’ll have a tidy sum when you retire.

If you’re midway through your working years, it’s a little tougher. Look for ways to cut back so that you can save more. And if you’re 50 or older, you get a boost. Catch-up contributions for 401(k) and IRA plans raise your max contributions by $6,000 annually in 2015, according to the IRS.

If you’re on retirement’s threshold or in retirement already, you can still improve your financial situation and get more retirement income.

Here are 6 of the best ways to get more retirement income:
 

1. Postpone retirement:

    If you haven’t retired yet, postpone your retirement date and use the time working to save more money to use as income later.

2. Postpone the start of Social Security:

    Also, postpone collecting Social Security until at least full retirement age, or longer to get the maximum retirement income. Delaying the start of Social Security can mean a BIG boost to your overall retirement wealth. (If you wait to start benefits, you might earn an additional $300 a month — or more. If you calculate that additional benefit over a 30 year time period, that would be $300 multiplied by 30 years, equaling $90,000 in additional retirement income.)

3. Get a retirement job:

    You don’t have to work full time, and any income will supplement your Social Security benefits.

4. Postpone withdrawal of savings and maximize investments:

    By working longer, you can delay the need to withdraw savings. left untouched, your savings in the bank can grow and become worth more — assuming you have optimized your investments.

5. Tap your home equity:

    No longer considered just a method of last resort, many seniors are considering using their home equity as supplemental income in retirement via products such as a reverse mortgage. You can learn more about this option by visiting our learning center on the topic, or find out how much you may have available by using our reverse mortgage calculator.

6. Budget and stick to it:

    Retirement security is not dependent on huge savings accounts and big incomes. You can be secure in retirement even at a very low-income level — so long as your expenses are low too. Downsizing and living frugally can give you a secure retirement at any income level.

If you haven’t tried it yet, now is the best time. The NewRetirement retirement calculator isn’t a magic 8-ball (although it very well seems like one) but it can be your new best friend for creating a retirement income that’s a lot better than average.

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