Learn some of the basics about retirement and pension benefits.

Saving for Retirement

As you approach retirement, there are many things to think about. Experts advise that you will need about 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to continue your current quality of life. The exact amount depends on your individual needs. Some important factors to consider include:

  • At what age do you plan to retire?
  • Can you participate in an employer's retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, or a traditional pension plan? 
  • Will your spouse or partner retire when you do?
  • Where do you plan to live when you retire? Will you downsize, rent, or own your home?
  • Do you expect to work part-time?
  • Will you have the same medical insurance you had while working? Will your coverage change?
  • Do you want to travel or pursue a new hobby that might be costly?

Resources to Help You Prepare for Retirement

To help you plan for retirement:

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Determining a Target Retirement Saving Rate

Make a plan with the Retirement Saving worksheet. Learn more at Savings Fitness.

Determining a Target Retirement Saving Rate

A secure retirement is one of your goals, right? The worksheet in this video can help you get there.

When setting up your budget, it is important to include retirement savings. You can save through a retirement plan at work, on your own, or both. The target retirement savings rate tool will help you determine how much you need to save each year. The sooner you start saving, the longer your savings have to grow.

The worksheet will help you estimate what percentage of your current annual salary you should be saving. While it does not take into account your unique circumstances, it will help you plan for your retirement goals.

The worksheet asks for four pieces of information:

  1. Number of years until retirement (your planned retirement age minus your current age)
  2. Current annual salary
  3. Number of years you expect to spend in retirement
  4. Current savings

The worksheet assumes that you’ll need to replace about 80 percent of your pre-retirement income. Social Security retirement benefits should replace about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income after retiring. This leaves approximately 40 percent to be replaced by retirement savings. Keep in mind, this is an estimate and you may need more or less depending on your individual circumstances.

How many years do you have left until retirement?

The more years you have until retirement, the less you will have to save each month to reach your goal. No matter your age, for every 10 years you delay starting to save for retirement, you need to save 3 times as much each month to catch up.

How long will you live in retirement?

Based on current estimates, a 65 year old man can expect to live approximately 18 years in retirement, and a 65 year old woman can expect to live about 20 years, but many people live longer. Planning to live well into your 90s can help you avoid outliving your income.

The worksheet takes into account some factors that impact your retirement savings. First, investing - because it involves risk. Second, inflation - because today’s dollars will usually buy less each year as the cost of living rises. Your target savings rate includes any contributions your employer makes to a retirement savings plan for you, such as an employer matching contribution. If, for example, you are in a 401(k) plan in which you contribute 4 percent of your salary and your employer also contributes 4 percent, your saving rate would be 8 percent of your salary.

By using the worksheet, you’ve figured out your target savings rate. It gives you a rough idea –a savings goal. Some may face higher expenses in retirement because of personal circumstances. For example, if you or your spouse have a chronic medical condition, you may want to save more. Some may have other sources of income in retirement such as a traditional pension or money from selling a home that would lower their target savings rate.

If you are not currently saving this amount, don’t be discouraged. The important thing is to start saving – even a small amount – and increase that amount when you can. Come back and update this worksheet from time to time to reflect changes and track your progress.

Here are a few tips on how to save smart for retirement:

  • Start now. Time is critical. Start small, if necessary.
  • Use automatic deductions from your payroll or your checking account.
  • Make saving for retirement a habit.
  • Be realistic about investment returns.
  • If you change jobs, keep your savings in the plan or roll them over to another retirement account.
  • Don’t dip into retirement savings early.
  • If you pay someone for investment advice, ask them to confirm in writing that they are “fiduciaries”—meaning they are obliged to work in your best interest.

To track other resources you may have in retirement, start by getting your Social Security statement and an estimate of your retirement benefits on the Social Security Administration’s website,

The online interactive target retirement savings rate worksheet and other financial planning worksheets are available on EBSA’s website: You can save your worksheet data there so that you can come back to update it to track progress or adjust for changes.

You can order a free copy of the Savings Fitness publication or contact a Benefits Advisor with questions electronically at or by calling toll-free 1-866-444-3272.

Get started today for a secure financial future!

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Social Security Retirement Benefits

Infographic showing the ways people save for retirement in the U.S.

If you’re like most Americans, Social Security is a key piece of your retirement savings. But how much you will get depends on your earnings over your lifetime, the age at which you'll begin receiving benefits, and whether you'll be eligible to receive a spouse’s benefit instead of your own.

You can use Social Security’s retirement planning tools to:

  • Estimate your benefits at each age, from 62 (the earliest you can receive them) to 70 (when you hit your maximum amount)
  • Apply for retirement benefits
  • Manage your account

Finding More Social Security Information

Social Security also administers disability and survivor benefits. Get the answers to many of the top Social Security questions.

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Protecting Your Private Pension Benefits

Avoiding Errors and Getting Help

If your job is covered by a traditional pension plan, make sure you get the pension amount you're owed. 

Federal Insurance for Private Pensions

If you've earned a traditional pension, you're likely to receive it even if your company runs into financial problems. 

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC):

Is Your Pension Insured?

Find an Unclaimed Pension

More than 38 million people in the U.S. haven’t claimed pension benefits they have earned. Find out if you, or someone you know, is owed a pension.


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Civil Service Retirement

Federal Employee Retirement Planning and Management

If you are a federal employee planning to retire or a federal retiree looking for information about your benefits, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)'s Retirement page can help you:

If you are the survivor of a deceased federal employee or federal retiree, you may be eligible for death and survivor benefits. Visit the OPM website to report the death and apply for death benefits

Thrift Savings Plan

In addition to the defined or basic benefits provided by your CSRS or FERS plan, if you are a current federal employee, you can boost your retirement savings by participating in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP offers the same types of savings and tax benefits as a 401(k) plan.

Credit for Military Service

Military service does not automatically count toward civil service retirement.

Pension Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers an online tool and an online publication to help you determine whether or not your pension or annuity payment is taxable.

Contact OPM's Retirement Operations Center

For benefits information or help with a transaction, contact OPM's Retirement Operations Center.

State and Local Government Employees

If you are a state or local government employee and have questions about your pension plan, contact your agency's personnel department. You can also contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration (ESBA) for help.

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Public Service and Volunteerism

Many federal organizations offer volunteer opportunities:

  • - Sign up for volunteer opportunities and create projects. Tool kits are available to help develop your ideas into projects.
  • - Start a volunteer project, send a message of thanks or give service hours to support our service members and their families.
  • - Find volunteer programs where you serve abroad and make a difference by working directly within communities to build capacity in education, health, environment and more.
  • - Get training in first aid and emergency skills. Volunteer to support local emergency responders and disaster relief efforts.
  • - Offers grants for service and volunteering; programs include the AmeriCorps, Senior Corps and Social Innovation Fund.
  • - Volunteer opportunities in America's natural and cultural resources, including national parks.
  • - Volunteer at a Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in your area.
  • Federal Election Volunteers – Become a Poll Worker - Assist election officials in your state.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Earth Team Volunteers - Work with private landowners to improve soil quality, conserve water, improve air quality and enhance wildlife habitat.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Volunteers take part in research, observation and educational roles that benefit science and the planet.

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Last Updated: March 09, 2017

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