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CDs won’t get you to retirement

By Sheyna Steiner ·
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

It takes a lot of money to retire. Just the cost of health care can eat up more than many people have saved for their nonworking years.

A survey by Fidelity Investments released earlier this month revealed that a 65-year-old couple retiring today could need upward of $240,000 to cover medical expenses through their retirement.

And they're the lucky ones; it will only get more expensive for younger people. This Bankrate story from 2008 cites several studies estimating the out-of-pocket health care expenses for future retirees, and they're all over the map.

For instance, a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute calculates that a couple retiring in 2018 could need $511,000.

And the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the number at $380,000 for retirees in 2030, according to the story.

Researchers may quibble over the exact amount, but it's not an insignificant number.

To get to retirement, people in the workforce today need to save -- a lot -- but investing can also help them do some of the heavy lifting.

Unfortunately, young investors have largely been turned off to the stock market. Last month's Financial Security Index found that young investors were nearly as disinclined to invest in the stock market as their older, and typically more conservative, counterparts.

Of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, 73 percent said they were not more inclined to invest in stocks with interest rates so low, and 77 percent of those older than 65 said the same thing.

While investing in the stock market does pose some risks, sticking to very safe savings vehicles such as CDs is also risky. The most significant danger of investing too conservatively is ending up in retirement without as much money as you could have had.

To illustrate the effects of compounding interest, compare two 30-year-olds. They each earn $50,000 per year and have current 401(k) balances of $30,000 to which they contribute 10 percent of their salary every year. Investor A earns a return of 3 percent; Investor B earns an annual rate of return of 8 percent.

Investing outcomes after 30 years

Annual rate
of return
Total after
35 years
Investor A 3 percent $391,619
Investor B 8 percent $1,342,048

It's a big difference. Saving more can help but even if InvestorA saves the maximum allowed every year in her 401(k), her returns won't match the heavy lifting from higher interest rates.

I used Bankrate's 401(k) savings calculator to come up with those figures.

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1 Comment
christopher john walsh
May 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm

roth iras will