In most American states, the golden years are looking tarnished.
Senior citizens in 47 states and Washington, D.C., are living on less than what financial experts say they should have socked away, according to a new study from Bankrate.com. The rule of thumb is to hit 65 years old with enough sources of income -- such as Social Security, pensions or retirement savings -- to replace at least 70 percent of one's pre-retirement earnings.
Unfortunately, the average American senior citizen is living on about 60 percent of his or her pre-retirement income, the study found. In only three states are seniors actually living at or above that 70 percent threshold: Hawaii, Alaska and South Carolina. Everywhere else, retirees are falling short.
"It's far from a lavish lifestyle" for retirees living on 60 percent of their pre-retirement income, said Bankrate Chief Financial Officer Greg McBride. "Even that 70 percent barometer may not be the best for your situation. It illustrates how many Americans are ill prepared for retirement."
A worker earning $40,000 annually would retire with $24,000 per year in income, based on the average American's 60 percent replacement figure. While that's above the national poverty rate, seniors living on that amount may find themselves crimping to make ends meet. Retirees are expected to spend about $7,000 per year alone on medical costs, according to a 2015 report from HealthView Insights.
McBride said he has three recommendations for Americans who aren't putting enough away or who are concerned about their income replacement in their golden years.
First, save more.
"This applies to all ages," he said. "The millennials will have the biggest retirement savings burden in history. Don't focus on that student loan debt to the exclusion of your retirement savings."
When workers turn 50, they can take advantage of catch-up contributions to their workplace retirement plans and their IRAs. "To the extent possible, utilize those," McBride said.
Second, consider working longer, even past 65. That's something that a more Americans over 65 than ever are already heeding. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a record number of seniors are now in the workforce. Each additional year working means another year to build up one's retirement savings, McBride noted.
Third, delay taking Social Security as long as possible. Waiting until full retirement age (66 years old for people born between 1943 to 1954) will provide 100 percent of your monthly Social Security benefit. Waiting until age 70 will result in receiving 132 percent of the monthly benefit.
Seniors in Hawaii, Alaska and South Carolina are doing better than their cohorts in other states because of the high percentage of government workers in those states, McBride said.
So where are seniors facing the biggest shortfalls? That tends to be in Northeastern states, where the cost of living is high, McBride said. Seniors in Massachusetts are living on 48.7 percent of their pre-retirement income, the lowest of any state.
Top 5 states for retirement income replacement:
1. Hawaii: 72.6 percent
2. Alaska: 71.1 percent
3. South Carolina: 70.2 percent
4. Arkansas: 69.4 percent
5. New Mexico: 69.2 percent
Bottom 5 states for retirement income replacement:
1. Massachusetts: 48.2 percent
2. South Dakota: 49 percent
3. New Jersey: 52 percent
4. Minnesota: 53 percent
5. Connecticut: 53.3 percent