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This is a tough question to answer. There are so many different variables that play into the equation, especially when you start taking various government benefits into account as well as personal goals and preferences.

Even if we just stick to basics for now, there are still a lot of factors that need attention before arriving at even an absolute rough conclusion to this question. For example, when you start saving for retirement , it's important to consider your current expenses and take a look at how they will change over time as well as the yearly inflation rate.

On top of that, your investments need to be diversified in order to reduce risk which means incorporating a range of funds from various asset classes. But this also means you need to keep up with the changing tides of the marketplace and adjust your portfolio accordingly. Then there are things like stock market crashes that can seriously affect your savings plan, so it's important to always remain informed about what is going on in the economy and financial markets .

It is also useful to do a few calculations while we're thinking about this question. After all, it's better to be safe than sorry when you're talking about something as important as retirement . So let's run through some calculations and see what we get.

At the moment I'm only earning $30,000 a year before tax which is fairly standard for someone in my age group. I'm saving about $10,000 a year and I'm only contributing the minimum to my 401(k) so that's another $2,400 there. If we run these numbers through a retirement calculation , we get about $1,200 per month or $14,400 per year in today's dollars which will be adjusted for inflation each year.

But wait, there's more to retirement than money. We all need somewhere to live and we also need some way of occupying our time when we're not working. If we add in some calculations for these factors and estimate that I'll be paying $1,000 a month (in today's dollars) for rent and about $100 a month (in today's dollars) for entertainment, that gives us another $1,200 in expenses each month or $14,400 a year.

And then there's Medicare and Social Security to take into account. In general, this will mean that you need to have been paying into these systems for at least 40 years before they pay out anything regardless of your current age. Medicare only pays out once you turn 65 while Social Security starts paying at 62 but the payout is fairly minimal. You can earn more by starting to collect these benefits later in life .

So what exactly does this mean? Well, if we take all of these numbers into account and average them out over a 40 year period where I'm paid the average income for someone in my age group, this puts me at making about $45,000 a year in today's dollars.

At that point I only need to have saved up around $900,000 which seems like an incredibly small amount compared to what most people actually end up with. But the problem is that all of this hinges on my expenses, inflation, investment earnings and so forth remaining very consistent with what they are now.

And if you're wondering why I'm not giving exact numbers here it's because the true answer is that this is just one of many possibilities. Maybe at age 65 I'll decide to retire early or maybe I won't have any money saved up at all. As long as I have at least some money saved up it will be possible to keep living so even if you don't have a million dollars in the bank, there are still plenty of ways to ensure that your retirement years are financially comfortable.

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