Help me wrap my head around this. We hear a million or even two won’t be enough to retire, but then we see all these articles about how most people don’t have $500 for an emergency

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There will be a lot of people trying to survive by living off social security, which wasn’t meant to be 100% of a retiree’s income, it was meant to be a supplement. So family will be called upon to help out with living expenses. Those who don’t have family will end up as section 8, living in some ghetto retirement home. That figure of one million or two million is for those who want enough passive income to continue their normal standard of living that they had in their 30’s/40’s/50’s. But that’s kind of a fallacy because you don’t need the same things or have the same expenses as when you were 40 as you do when you are 70.


I’m a 40 year old veteran and I’ve met all kinds of people. Out of everyone I’ve met in my entire life, I can say that only a handful of people really cared about their retirement money. Some people will get lucky have pensions. There will be a lot of bitter old people working at Target and blaming people for their financial problems. Not trying to be condescending, but it is reality.


Paid off house + social security is easily enough for most people. Headlines saying 1-2 million isn’t enough is targeted to people on HCOL areas or people wanting to sustain a nice lifestyle.


2 million isn’t enough for an upper class family with kids going to private school and expensive colleges, three cars, no particular restraint on day to day spending to retire in their 50s. Many of the people who find themselves with 2 million not having thought too much about it and then google ‘can I retire?’ will fall in that group. For a family that keeps to lower expense lifestyle, 2 million is enough. It’s also achievable for most middle class families but it requires saving a bunch for a long time (either themselves or through a pension) and most people either don’t know or don’t want to do that. As for those who don’t save much at all, they’ll mostly either work until full social security kicks in and then live on a restricted income, and/or they’ll get support from their kids. That’s how it’s possible for 2 million to not be enough while simultaneously people retire with much much less.


My grandparents are in their 80s and at this point their sole income is basically their Social Security benefits and money their adult children give them. Grandfather never had a job with a pension or a 401(k). He started a business, it did well for a while and then failed. He started another one from scratch, it did well for a while, then it failed too. Moved into a 9-5 office job relatively late in life and then got pushed to take a buyout package when he was 65 due to a restructuring and age discrimination. Grandmother was a homemaker, apart from some occasional secretarial jobs. Some money they had saved up got invested in a business owned by a family friend who they’d always trusted; he funneled cash out of the business to his wife and kids, filed for bankruptcy and stopped answering their phone calls. A lot of weird things happen to people in life. It’s not so much that people aren’t responsible as it’s next to impossible for someone to graduate from college, immediately proceed into a well-paying job, and then spend the next 45 years investing in index funds without ever having anything go wrong – a job loss, foreclosure, medical crisis, divorce, lawsuit. tl;dr Most people will not have $1M when they retire, and never had any real wherewithal to do so in the first place.