Watch CBS News

How much money do you need to retire? Americans have a magic number — and it's big.

It's one of the toughest questions facing workers: How much do you need to retire? Americans with retirement accounts say there is a magic number, and it's a big figure: an average of $1.8 million. 

That's according to a new survey from Charles Schwab, which asked 1,000 people with 401(k) plans offered by a range of providers what they believed they will need to have socked away to retire comfortably. The savings figure is up from a year earlier, when respondents said they would need $1.7 million.

Workers are raising their estimate for what they need for retirement after the impact of searing inflation and market volatility, noted Marci Stewart, director of communication consulting and participant education for Schwab Workplace Financial Services. But it also underscores the so-called "retirement gap" — the often yawning chasm between what people have saved and what they'll actually need in retirement.

"There's no doubt that there can be a gap in between what individuals say they need and what they have today," Stewart told CBS MoneyWatch.

Gen Z saving for retirement sooner than earlier generations 03:40

The average U.S. retirement account held $113,000 last year, according to data from Vanguard. Even among people who are of retirement age, or 65 and older, are lagging, with an average account of $233,000, Vanguard data shows.

While $1.8 million in retirement savings may seem extravagant when compared with the typical account balance, it doesn't necessarily translate into a lavish lifestyle. Using the rule of thumb to withdraw 4% of savings each year in retirement, a person with $1.8 million who retires at 65 would have $72,000 annually in retirement income.

Inflation hit

The past year's triple-whammy of high inflation, rising interest rates and sharp market swings have taken a toll on workers' confidence that they are on track to meet their retirement savings goals, Schwab found. About 37% said they were very likely to save what they need for retirement, a 10 percentage-point drop from 2022, according to the survey.

Millions to lose popular 401(k) tax break 03:58

"There are two main factors that are concerning people today, and one is inflation and the other is the volatility in the market," Stewart added. "Yes, inflation numbers have come down, but people still have pressure on their paychecks ... and with interest rates being a bit higher, borrowing money is [also] more expensive."

Despite those pressures, workers haven't pared back how much of their income they're stashing away, Schwab noted. In both 2022 and 2023, Americans said they're putting almost 12% of their pretax income into their 401(k)s, the study found.

That is "encouraging because it's showing us that people are continuing to prioritize their retirement savings," Stewart said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.