Topic: Retirement
Who is affected: Consumers at every life stage

What you need to know

There’s no way to predict exactly how much you’ll have in your 401(k) at any given point in the future.

Because of the unpredictable nature of investment returns and unforeseen fluctuations in income (layoffs, promotions), predicting 401(k) balances is an inexact science.

The good news is that with a few easy-to-obtain pieces of information, you can get a general idea of where you’ll be 10, 20 or 30 years from now.

The first thing you’ll need is your 401(k) balance. You can find this by looking at your 401(k) statement. By law, this must be sent to you at least once a quarter. Your 401(k) provider may provide online access. If so, you find your current balance there.

Then, estimate the rate of return you expect to get on your investments. This figure will depend largely on the aggressiveness of your portfolio. Stocks historically return about 10 percent a year over time, while bonds return about 5 percent. So, depending on the mix in your account, you’ll probably come out somewhere in between.

Finally, look at what percentage of your income is going into your 401(k). Don’t forget to include the employer match, which is often a 50 percent match up to a certain percentage of your salary. The amount your employer contributes should be recorded in your 401(k) statement.

Enter your income, the percentage you plan to contribute and your age below to get started.
Percent to contribute
Annual salary
Current age

High expense ratios and fees can sap your returns and make a big difference in how much money you’ll have upon retirement. When deciding how to allocate your 401(k) contributions, try to find funds with expense ratios well under 2 percent. Anything above that and a fund will have to do pretty well to even match the overall market, let alone beat it.

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