How Much Income Do You Need in Retirement? It Depends

By on July 18, 2007 in Current Events, Retirement with 0 Comments

What level of income do you need in retirement?  The answer is that old standby that those of us who work or worked in HR know so well; “It depends”.

“Upon what does it depend?”, you might ask.  The lifestyle you desire in retirement is the primary determinant of the amount you will need each year. 

  • If you have a retirement home that is paid for and a simple lifestyle, you can get by on significantly less than the amount it takes you to live today.
  • If the travel sections of the Sunday newspaper color your view of retirement, you might even need more.  A recent feature in the Sunday Chicago Tribune was all about India.  If you’re interested, you can get a luxury room in a hotel where every room has a beautiful view of the Taj Mahal for only $600 per night.

If you are close to retirement, you can get an idea of what you’ll need to live on by looking at your current budget (you do have one, don’t you?) and adjusting it by prospective changes that will occur when you retire.  For example:

  • You will no longer be paying 8.45% payroll taxes.
  • Your commuting expenses may be lower.
  • Your travel expenses may be higher.
  • Your mortgage may be paid off.
  • You may spend less for food outside the home.
  • You may spend more for recreational activities (but you’ll get senior discounts).

If you’re further from retirement there are several “rules of thumb” that are available.

First, there is the rule that you can have a similar standard of living on 70% to 80% of your current income.  It is important to be aware that this rule assumes that your mortgage is paid off at retirement, and that you will live somewhat more inexpensively then.  If your mortgage is not going to be paid off until after retirement, you will need to factor that in.  A recent USA Today “Snapshot” showed that almost half of homeowners, age 65 or older, still were making mortgage payments.

Then there is the 91.55% rule.  This rule is based on the fact that 91.55% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) will give you a retirement income that is virtually the same as your current income.  Using 91.55% factors out payroll taxes of 8.45%.  Using AGI factors out tax deferred savings, such as the TSP, as they are not included in AGI.

Whether you use any of these rules, or have developed one of your own, having a handle on how much you will need in retirement gives you a leg up in your retirement planning over those who haven’t a clue what they’ll need.

John Grobe’s latest book, The Answer Book on Your Federal Employee Benefits, has just been released by LRP Publications. The book is written in an easy to understand question and answer format and covers all areas of federal benefits from the perspective of an employee at various stages of their career. Order your copy at

© 2016 John Grobe. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from John Grobe.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a consulting firm that specializes in federal retirement and career transition issues. He is also affiliated with TSP Safety Net. John retired from federal service after 25 years of progressively more responsible human resources positions. He is the author of Understanding the Federal Retirement Systems and Career Transition: A Guide for Federal Employees, both published by the Federal Management Institute. Federal Career Experts provides pre-retirement seminars for a wide variety of federal agencies.