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Survey: 55% of Americans Want to Retire Early, But Aren’t Saving Enough

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Saving for retirement is a lot like hitting the gym: you know you should be doing it, but working up the motivation to go can be challenging. A recent MagnifyMoney survey of over 1,000 Americans found that while 55% of respondents would like to retire early, they simply aren’t saving enough to do so.

Of the survey respondents who said they’d like to retire before the age of 66, 25% are saving just 4% to 5% of their income, while 19% are saving only 1% to 3% of their income. At this rate, aspiring early retirees are setting themselves up for a major disappointment.

Key findings

  • Nearly 55% of respondents with a retirement savings account want to retire before turning 66, but their contribution levels don’t match up with their goals. Nearly half (44%) of those who aim for early retirement save 5% or less of their income for retirement.
    • A recent MagnifyMoney study on average retirement savings by age found that millennials have saved an average of $34,570 for retirement and Gen Xers have saved an average of $168,480. Given the low contributions uncovered in our studies, though, lofty goals of early retirement may not be a reality for many savers.
  • Almost 3 in 10 millennials want to retire before they turn 60. However, less than a quarter of millennials are saving more than 10% of their income for retirement.
  • People say they are planning to increase their savings: 54% of respondents plan to increase their contribution level in 2020, or the percentage of income going toward retirement.
    • Millennials (69%) are the most likely to say they plan to increase their retirement savings in 2020 — beating their older Gen X counterparts (57%). Meanwhile, 12% of baby boomers will actually decrease their contributions, which is understandable considering many are at or around retirement age.
  • Increasing contributions in 2020 is certainly warranted: Just 26% of savers are currently contributing 10% or more of their income to their retirement savings account. For Gen Xers, that number is 32%.
    • On the other hand, 41% of savers are contributing 5% or less. While that’s better than nothing, it’s hardly enough, especially for older Americans.
  • Men (64%) are more likely to plan on upping their retirement contributions this year, while more women (51%) will keep things the same. This could be because 60% of men want to retire before age 66, compared to just 49% of women.
    • Notably, women are twice as likely as men to say they don’t know when they last increased the amount they contribute to retirement savings (9% vs. 5%).

How much people are saving vs. when they want to retire

For our survey, we asked respondents to come clean about how much they are actually stashing away for their retirement years. We found that 23% of those surveyed contribute just 4% to 5% of their income to retirement — far less than the typical recommended amount of 15%.

Meanwhile, 18% contribute between 1% to 3% to retirement savings, and a stunning 12% don’t contribute anything at all. Not everyone is procrastinating on building a nest egg, though: 16% of respondents are saving between 6% to 9% of their income for retirement, 14% are saving between 10% and 14% and 6% are saving 15% to 19%. At the high end of the curve, only 5% of people are saving 20% or more of their income to retirement savings.

Younger people certainly have room for improvement. Over half of millennial respondents (51%) are saving only 5% or less of their income for retirement, while less than a quarter (24%) are saving over 10% of their income. Despite their relatively low rate of savings, 69% of millennials say they want to retire early, before the age of 66.

Gen Xers seem to be a bit out-of-touch with reality: many aren’t aggressively saving for retirement, but they’re still saying they would like to retire early. While 62% of Gen Xers say they want to retire before age 66, over half of them (56%) are socking away less than 10% of their income for retirement.

Our takeaway: Younger generations might be in for a rude awakening if they crunch the numbers to determine when they’d actually be able to retire, based on their current rate of savings.

Baby boomers are in a different situation, as many of them are close to or already retired. Understandably, as more boomers retire (according to our survey, 39% of that generation said they’re already retired), many are understandably stashing away less in retirement savings. It makes sense that our survey found 29% of boomers said they are not saving anything for retirement.

When comparing retirement contributions by gender, there are a number of stark differences — most notably the 18% of women who said they are not saving anything for retirement, compared to 7% of men. Additionally, only 20% of women are saving at least 10% of their income for retirement — much less than the 30% of men who are doing the same.

One possible reason for this discrepancy could likely be chalked up to the gender wage gap, as women are still earning just 82 cents for every dollar pulled in by a man. Less money earned means less money available to save. Lower earnings might also explain why women are less likely to say they want to retire early: Our survey found that 49% of women want to retire before age 66, compared to 60% of men.

Who plans to increase their retirement savings in 2020?

Our survey found that overall, 54% of respondents said they will increase their retirement contributions in 2020. By generation, that included 69% of millennials and 57% Gen Xers. Understandably, only 29% of baby boomers plan to up their contributions in 2020.

Of the respondents who say they plan to increase their retirement contributions in 2020, many aim to retire early: 63% of those who want to retire before age 66 are planning on upping their contributions this year.

Our survey found wide variance regarding when respondents had last increased their contributions. While 38% of respondents said that they have increased their retirement contributions in the past year, 17% admitted that they have never dialed up their contributions. Meanwhile, 24% of people said that the last time they increased their retirement contributions was two to three years ago, 7% said it was four to five years ago, another 7% said it was more than five years ago — and 6% said they do not know when they last increased their contributions.

How much should you be saving for retirement?

Our survey found that when it comes to how much of their income people are devoting to retirement savings, it’s all over the map, from over 20% to nothing at all. So with no clear consensus among our survey respondents, how much should you actually be saving for retirement?

When it comes down to it, there are many factors that play a role in how much you should stash away for your golden years. The most important step, though, is to just start saving — check out our listings of the best IRA providers and the best robo-advisors to begin the process. That might sound simple, but a staggering 12% of our survey respondents did admit to saving nothing at all.

The importance of saving for retirement now rather than later cannot be emphasized enough: It takes time for your returns to compound. The sooner you start, the more time you allow your investments to grow. Additionally, you should contribute up the percentage that your employer matches (if they offer that benefit) — otherwise, you’re essentially leaving money on the table.

For those looking for specific metrics and benchmarks to gauge how much they should be socking away, there are a number of tried-and-true guidelines. Fidelity, for example, recommends saving 15% of your pre-tax income for retirement (that percentage includes any contributions you also get from your employer).

That percentage was calculated with the assumption that you’re saving for retirement between the ages of 25 and 67, and that most people will need to draw around 45% of their retirement income from their own retirement savings in order to live comfortably in their golden years. Looking at Fidelity’s 15% as a guideline, it’s clear that many people are falling behind, as our survey found only 12% of people are saving at least that much. Additionally, Fidelity’s guideline of 15% is assuming that the person wants to retire at age 67, when in fact our survey found most people (55%) want to retire before age 66.


MagnifyMoney commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,064 Americans with a retirement savings account, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Dec. 10-16, 2019. For the purposes of our survey, we defined generations as: millennials (ages 23 to 38), Gen Xers (ages 39 to 53) and baby boomers (ages 54 to 73).

Members of Generation Z (ages 18 to 22) and the Silent Generation (ages 74 and older) were also surveyed, and their responses are included within the total percentages among all respondents. However, their responses are excluded from the charts and age breakdowns, due to the smaller population size among our survey sample.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Asset Management vs Wealth Management: What’s the Difference?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Asset management and wealth management may seem like interchangeable terms, but they are quite different in practice. Asset management is when you hire someone to direct your investments, while wealth management is advice that addresses every aspect of your financial life, from cash flow to goal planning to insurance coverage. Whether you need one or the other will depend on your situation and stage in life.

What is asset management?

Asset management is the practice of advising and managing investments. If you hire a financial professional to manage your assets, that’s their only focus: the performance of your portfolio, evaluation of your risk and the allocation of assets in investments.

“Ultimately, it’s understanding a client’s goals and developing, implementing and managing a set asset allocation to help a client reach those goals,” said Trevor Scotto, a financial planner in Walnut Creek, Calif.

An asset manager can help you design your portfolio, monitor it over time and distribute the assets as needed. “When someone needs to start distributing assets from their portfolio, an asset manager will help them structure the most intelligent and tax-efficient process,” said Alex Caswell, a financial planner in San Francisco.

What services does asset management offer?

Typically, an asset manager will offer the following:

  • Risk assessment
  • Portfolio design
  • Investment rebalancing
  • Tax minimization strategies
  • Monitoring of investments and investment options
  • Asset distribution

What sort of clients does an asset manager serve?

A typical client for an asset manager might be someone just starting out in their career who needs guidance on setting up their portfolio, or someone with a simpler financial situation in general. They might not have the wealth or complicated money scenario that lends itself to more involved wealth planning.

“On the other side of the spectrum is more of a do-it-yourselfer,” Scotto said. This kind of client might want to manage the rest of their financial lives themselves, along with a bit of investment guidance.

What is wealth management?

Wealth management takes a big-picture view of your finances, from estate planning to insurance coverage. Wealth management includes asset management — but instead of just focusing on your investment portfolio, a wealth manager will take all the other facets of your financial life into account.

The benefit of wealth management, among other things, is that wealth managers consider and advise on other parts of your finances, and those parts can be just as crucial as your investments.

“When clients come in and they’ve really had their financial dreams broken, it usually wasn’t because they messed up on investments,” said Robert DeHollander, a financial planner in Greenville, S.C. “It was usually because they missed something on the financial defense side, especially insurance.”

A wealth manager may also help coordinate planning with all the financial professionals in your life, such as your accountant, insurance agent and estate attorney. “Most of the time, what we find is that none of those advisors are actually talking to each other, and things can get missed,” Scotto said. “There’s so much more value the client can have if all the advisors are aligned.”

What services does wealth management offer?

Wealth management will differ from firm to firm, but in general, you can expect to find many of the following on a wealth manager’s list:

  • Analysis of cash flow and debt management
  • Tax planning
  • Retirement planning and goal setting
  • Social Security analysis
  • Estate planning
  • Legacy planning
  • Insurance analysis (life, health, property, disability, long-term care)
  • Investment management
  • Coordination of all your advisors (CPA, estate attorney, etc.)

What sort of clients does a wealth manager serve?

Wealth management clients are typically further along in their financial affairs — whether that’s higher on the career ladder or with a higher net worth. They also may be people with more complex financial situations, such as business owners, people approaching retirement or those in the midst of a life event that has money in motion.

“That might be a birth, a death or an inheritance,” DeHollander said. “They need a professional to look over their shoulder and give them advice.”

Wealth management can also be helpful for someone coming out of a divorce or having just lost a spouse. “It’s a very emotional time, and you need somebody to be your advocate to help put everything in place,” Scotto said.

The common thread for wealth management clients is that they’ve realized there’s more to their financial security than their investment portfolio. “Investing assets is a necessary part of creating financial security, but by far, it’s not the sole driver,” said Erika Safran, a financial planner in New York City.

Differences between asset and wealth management

In thinking about asset management vs wealth management, it’s useful to imagine that asset management is one piece of the wealth management pie. While wealth management includes asset management, it also includes guidance on your overall financial picture, from whether you have the right amount of life insurance to whether you have the right powers of attorney drawn up.

In general, either kind of manager can be registered as a broker/dealer or as an investment advisor, and either kind of manager may carry fiduciary responsibility, or they may only need to offer recommendations that are “suitable” for your portfolio.

Another difference tends to be in fee structure: Asset managers commonly charge a percentage of assets to manage your investments, or they’re paid on commission by the products they recommend. Some may also offer an hourly rate.

Wealth managers may charge a percentage of assets, but there may be an additional fee — a flat rate or hourly rate — for the evaluation of your financial picture and for recommendations. This may be a fee that’s charged once, or annually, or every time you have them revisit your situation.

 Asset managementWealth management
DescriptionCovers your investment portfolios onlyEncompasses all aspects of your financial life
FocusInvestments, risk assessment, portfolio strategy, asset allocation and distributionInvestments, insurance, estate planning, retirement planning, education planning, legacy planning, charitable giving, tax planning
CompensationUsually a percentage of the assets under management or commissions from the financial products they include in client portfolios, although some are fee-basedMight be a percentage of assets under management and/or a flat or hourly fee for wealth management services charged annually or as needed

The tricky part about differentiating asset management from wealth management is that a lot of firms use wealth management language to describe their asset management functions. Many “wealth managers” are really just asset managers.

“My experience has typically been that you can’t put a blanket statement on these terminologies,” Scotto said. “I’ve seen people who work at banks who call themselves wealth managers. It’s very confusing to the end investor.”

Which is right for you?

The decision to go for asset management versus wealth management is a personal one and depends on your goals and circumstances. If you’re a newer investor and just looking for a kickstart to get your portfolio going, an asset manager may be the right call. If you’re looking for more overall guidance or you have a more complex money situation, a wealth manager can help.

How to choose a wealth manager

It’s important to put some time and research into choosing a wealth manager because that person will be advising you on every aspect of your financial life. “At the end of the day, you need to feel really comfortable with the person you’re working with because ultimately, one of the roles of the advisor is keeping the client from making costly mistakes,” Scotto said. “You have to have so much trust in your advisor.”

To that end, ask friends and co-workers if they’ve worked with an advisor they recommend. “The best way to do it is through a referral, if you know someone you trust who’s had an experience and can give you the name of somebody,” DeHollander said. Talk to at least three advisors before committing. Ask a lot of questions, and make sure it’s a good fit.

Some questions to ask:

  • How do you define wealth management?
  • Who are your typical clients?
  • How are you compensated?
  • Is any of your compensation based on selling products?
  • What is your money philosophy?
  • What licenses do you hold?
  • What financial planning designations or certifications do you hold?
  • What are your areas of specialization?
  • Will I work with you, or someone else in your company?
  • What kind of services can I expect?
  • Are you required to act as a fiduciary?

(This last question is important. As a fiduciary, an advisor is required to put a client’s interests above their own.)

How to choose an asset manager

The process of choosing an asset manager is a lot like choosing a wealth manager, except your range of focus is narrower. As with a wealth manager, it’s still recommended that you speak to at least three advisors before choosing one, and references are a great place to start. You can ask the same questions of asset managers as you would of wealth managers. (But ask them how they’d define asset management.)

Do RIAs offer asset management services or wealth management?

Registered investment advisors (RIAs) may offer both asset management services and wealth management services. It’s important to talk to them about the services they offer so that you understand the scope of their work.

“It’s a case by case basis, firm by firm, advisor by advisor,” Scotto said. “The one thing to point out is that RIAs, as independent firms, are required to uphold fiduciary standards, and if you’re a Certified Financial Professional (CFP), you’re also supposed to uphold the fiduciary standard of care. If there’s any doubt, find an independent investment advisory firm with CFPs on staff, and you’ll be in good shape.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Should I Open an IRA with My Bank?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone and is not intended to be a source of investment advice. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Opening an individual retirement account (IRA) with a credit union or a bank might be a good call, depending on your risk tolerance and investing goals. If you’re an extremely conservative investor, you’re very close to retirement or already retired, a bank IRA might be right for you. But for most retirement savers, the optimal place to invest is a brokerage IRA.

When should I open an IRA with my bank?

For most people, bank individual retirement accounts are not the best place to grow their retirement funds. Bank IRAs offer very limited, low-yield investment options, typically savings accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs). However, they do offer a few advantages for some retirement savers.

Bank IRAs are ultra-safe investments. If you open one at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)-accredited institution, the funds you save in an IRA savings account or IRA CD receive deposit insurance up to the legal limit. Even if the bank were to fail, you wouldn’t lose the funds saved in your IRA. This is the right place to park your retirement cash if you’re super risk-averse.

There are tax strategies you can take advantage of with a bank IRA. If your tax preparer tells you on April 14 that you need to make an IRA contribution to get the most out of your tax return and you have money in your bank savings account, you can open an IRA savings account at that bank and move funds into the IRA in no time.

Keep in mind that bank IRA savings accounts and CDs traditionally offer very low rates of return. Most investors need a higher return on their retirement savings to meet their goals. The best place to get those higher returns is to open an IRA at a brokerage.

Should I open a bank IRA savings account?

A bank IRA savings account offers you a tax-advantaged way to save for retirement by stashing cash in a savings account in either a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. With a traditional IRA, your contributions may be tax deductible, and you’ll be taxed on all withdrawals. With a Roth IRA, your deductions are post-tax, and your withdrawals — including earnings — are tax free.

You may also be able to open other types of IRAs at a bank or credit union, such as a SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA, which are accounts for self-employed people. And in some cases, you may be able to open a Coverdell Education Savings Account (formerly known as an Education IRA).

An IRA savings account pays interest, and the money accrues until you can withdraw it at age 59 1/2 or older. That said, interest rates are typically lower than the returns you could get in the stock market.

Top bank IRA savings account rates


Minimum opening deposit


Latino Community Credit Union IRA Share Account (Traditional, Roth, SEP)



Communitywide FCU IRA



Signature Federal Credit Union IRA Savings (Traditional, Roth, CESA)



“We are in a period of low interest rates, and the outlook of those rates going up doesn’t look favorable,” said Thomas Rindahl, a certified financial planner in Tempe, Ariz. “Someone using savings or traditional CDs is facing the very real risk of losing purchasing power over time.”

If you’re a customer at that bank, opening an account may be as easy as logging in online, checking a few boxes and funding the account with a deposit from your bank account. If you’re not a bank customer, you may need to enter your personal information, choose an account and set up a funding deposit.

Should I open a bank IRA CD?

A bank IRA certificate of deposit offers another tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicle — but with slightly higher interest rates, because you agree to keep your cash in the certificate of deposit for the length of the CD’s term, whether that’s six months, one year or five years. Generally, the longer the term, the higher the interest rate.

As with IRA savings accounts, you can open various types of IRA CDs, including a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP or SIMPLE IRA.

If you’re a bank customer, opening an account may require logging in, confirming your information and funding the account with a deposit from your bank account. If you’re not a bank customer, you may have to enter your personal information, choose an account type and set up a deposit from your bank.

Top bank IRA CD account rates




BethPage FCU

3 months



6 months


Paramount Bank

12 months



18 months


MAC Federal Credit Union

2 years


America’s Credit Union

3 years


Credit Union of the Rockies

4 years


American 1 Credit Union

5 years


Evansville Teachers FCU

6+ years


Most retirement savers should open an IRA with a broker

Although bank IRAs offer a safe place to put your retirement cash, they’re not the ideal savings vehicle for most investors. Because you’re investing your retirement cash for the long-term — and hoping to eventually have enough to comfortably stop working — you need higher returns than you’ll get at a bank. This is why you probably want to open an IRA at a brokerage.

“I think of the bank as the place where you have your emergency funds — and I don’t particularly care about low returns on emergency funds, but the IRA is meant to be a long-term investment,” said Chip Simon, a certified financial planner in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “You probably want to have something that’s going to be steered toward some growth over time.”

For this, you’ll need a brokerage IRA, where you have a much wider array of investments and greater potential to grow your savings. You can build a diversified portfolio from a mix of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs and other investment vehicles, giving you the opportunity to earn a healthy return and fatten your nest egg over time.

Brokerage IRAs offer higher returns

Consider that since 1928, the S&P 500 has had an average annual return of 11.57%. Historically, non-savings account assets have performed more favorably than savings accounts over the last 15 years:

  • U.S. large-cap stocks: 8.22%
  • U.S. mid-cap stocks: 8.09%
  • U.S. small-cap stocks: 7.93%
  • Long-term bonds: 6.38%

Here’s how it breaks down:

If a 35-year-old deposited $1,000 into an IRA and added $1,000 each year until age 65, here’s how the two accounts would compare:


Assumed annual return

Balance at age 65

Bank IRA savings account



Well-diversified stock portfolio in a brokerage IRA



Still feeling ultra conservative? Brokerage IRAs also have conservative investment options, such as bonds and money market funds.

“Oftentimes, what we find is that we can find a better money market than what our client is earning at the bank,” said Monica Dwyer, a certified financial planner in West Chester, Ohio.

Brokerage accounts have the advantage of being a good place to consolidate your savings over time. If you have a 401(k) from an old job, for instance, you can open a rollover IRA at the same brokerage where you have your Roth or traditional IRA (or both), a taxable account and/or a health savings account. Plus, brokerage accounts offer SIPC insurance on up to $500,000, often with secondary insurance on amounts above that.

Brokerage accounts are also easy to roll IRAs into and out of, versus a bank IRA. At a bank, the process can be more cumbersome, and the easiest way is often to take a direct withdrawal.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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