Retirement planning: How do you measure up?

Are you saving enough for retirement? Start answering that question by comparing yourself with other Americans. Here's where the country stands on saving, along with a workout plan to help you succeed.

Mid- to late-career: Tone your portfolio

retirement planning owning stocks
Most 401(k) savers take risks when young and then taper off their stock exposure as they age. Not everyone, though.

As your portfolio builds and you have more money at stake, focus on how you invest, making sure to balance your ability to handle risk with your need for growth.

Don't overreach. Over the long term, a higher stock allocation will typically grow your nest egg faster. You'll also have to live with more uncertainty, though. So be realistic about what you can handle, using returns following the 2008 financial crisis as a rough guide.

Would you be able to hold on if you experienced that kind of loss again? "If you capitulate" -- that is, sell -- "at the wrong time, it's over," says Madison-based financial planner Mike Dubis.

Get the free lunch. There's one way to boost your investment returns without adding risk: Lower the fees you pay on your investments. A study by Towers Watson found that cutting investment fees from 1% to 0.2% -- the cost of many index funds -- could save enough to fund an extra nine years of retirement for someone making $75,000 and saving 8% a year.

Catching up gives your more choices. At 50 and up, you're allowed to make larger "catchup" contributions to your 401(k) and IRA. The extra savings makes the risk/reward tradeoff in your portfolio less fraught: It will be easier to hit your goal with safer, but lower-returning, assets. At the same time, losses in the stock market are less likely to knock you below the minimum you'll need to retire.

  @Money - Last updated November 04 2013 05:07 PM ET
Join the Conversation
Retirement Guide 2014
early retirement koontz

Meet more than a dozen retirees who got a head start on their golden years -- and learn the secrets of how they did it.

Find Homes for sale
  • Property Type
  • Find a home in:
    New York | Atlanta | Chicago | Los Angeles
    Washington D.C | Houston | Philadelphia | More options
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.