How Much Should I Have Saved By 35?

I turned the big 3-5 a few years ago and I am feeling my age (or maybe it was pregnancy induced because my body is more fragile than it ever was) because I have this chronically numb toe and I had terrible wrist pain/ tendinitis post-pregnancy for a 8 whole months with my first child.  Despite the health issues, I feel somewhat hopeful and content with my financial situation because I was diligent about financial planning.  I was wondering, how much should I have saved by 35?

How Much Should I have Saved by 35

How Much Money Should I Have At 35?

I was curious to know how I was doing financially and if my savings plan was on track at 35.  Although, one might not necessarily follow these ‘savings benchmarks’ or ‘milestones’ set forth by society, it is still good to know what they are so that you know where you stand for retirement planning so you can track your progress.

Many people will find these personal finance milestones or savings benchmarks ridiculous and completely absurd assumptions or broad brush strokes on different people’s financial situation and background, but I still find it useful to know what these benchmarks are that the ‘money experts’ recommend.

If your savings are lacking, you’ll know soon enough if your income in retirement will be okay.

A Lot Happens In Your Thirties

At this stage of your life, a lot happens.  I found my life partner, I got married, I had a baby and became a mom, I took a year off work for maternity leave and it felt like a mini-retirement

This all happened within a few years. Time is just flying.

Many people in their 30’s may have paid off their student loans and are also buying a home.  Even when I think back just a few years ago, my life feels completely different then from what is now (and this is completely due to entering parenthood, in my opinion).

Like I said, a lot happens in your 30’s. 

And most of them are more responsibilities and obligations.  Life feels it is going full speed ahead.  When life happens, a lot of high ticket living expenses are usually associated with it too- like a wedding, spending on friends’ weddings, saving for low income during maternity leave, and spending on baby. Or becoming new parents.

This certainly increases your annual expenses and impacts your savings rates.

You may not be able to contribute as much to the stock market.

Related: Financial Checklist for New Parents in Canada

At the same time, in your 30’s, you are usually at least 10 years into your career (depending on your chosen career, of course) and making better money than you were in your 20’s.

So with the plus of more career money (though in my case it will be less since I plan to cut back on work and my husband is doing the same) and the minus of all these life expenses that are hemorrhaging out of your bank accounts, how much should you have saved up by age 35?

The Motherhood Penalty really affects your household income, depending on when you had your first child.

Average Retirement Savings: How Much Should You have Saved Up by 35?

Okay so what’s the number?

According to CNBC who crunched the numbers, you should have twice your annual salary (gross) saved up by 35 in financial assets. 

It’s not clear from the CNBC article if the money saved up is ear marked for retirement specifically or if it is in terms of net worth (which would include primary residence). 

I am assuming that it is for money invested and saved for retirement.

It’s easy to calculate your target income saved. 

Let’s say your annual salary is $75,000, that means you should have $150,000 saved up for retirement.

At age 30, CNBC also recommends having 1 year of annual salary saved up for retirement.  So from age 30 to 35, somehow you should have saved up $75,000, or about $15,000 annually for the 5 years.  That’s quite a lot to ask for given that a lot happens between age 30 and 35!

On a retirement portfolio of $150,000 with a dividend yield of 3.5%, this provides $5250 annual income in retirement.

By age 40, how much are you supposed to have saved up in your retirement accounts? 

Surprise surprise, CNBC says you should have 3 times your gross annually salary saved up for retirement in your investment portfolio.

Here’s more information on how much you should have saved by 40.

Sherry from Save Spend Splurge has a great post on what your net worth should be by age group (including if you have a home vs no home as part of your net worth).

Here’s the average savings by age in Canada to see how you stack up.

Personally I would like to have a retirement portfolio of $1 million by the time I am 40 (which will provide about a $35,000 annual dividend income), but I will be happy with at least $615,400 to provide a $20,000 annual dividend income on a 3.25% dividend yield.

Given that 1 in 6 millennials have $100,000 saved up, I guess millennials are doing pretty good- though there is a lot of heterogeneity amongst millennials. 

As an older millennial I feel very very different from someone who was born in the 1990’s for example (who are also considered millennials).  Even within the generation the investing strategy may be different.


Now that we know the ‘recommendations’ and can calculate how much you should have at 35…here are some ways that you can save up twice your annual salary by 35, earmarked for retirement.

For more information on how you should withdraw from your retirement portfolio in the future, this retirement projections review is helpful as a retirement income calculator.

Okay, now that we know how much you SHOULD have saved up by 35, how do you get there?

Saving for Retirement: How Do You Save Up Twice Your Annual Salary by 35?

  • Take advantage of employer retirement matching contribution (a lot of employers match your RRSP contributions, for example).  I have a defined benefit pension in Canada  and I am planning on taking advantage of the pension buyback (even though this takes up a lot of cash savings) because I’d like some diversification of my retirement income.

  • Take advantage of your RRSP and TFSA.  For example, I take my tax refund from my RRSP and use it to fund my TFSA and max the $6000 to $7000 contribution annually.  If you have any investments in your non-registered accounts for retirement, and you have not maxed out your RRSP and TFSA, please correct that as soon as possible!  There may be company match to boost your retirement nest egg.

Related:  Which One to Invest in First?  The RRSP or the TFSA?

  • Pay yourself first.  To save $15,000 a year from age 30 to 35 assuming you are making $75,000 at age 30 already and there is no increase in wage you will have to be saving 20% of your gross income, or about $1250 after taxes and other work deductions every month socked away.  Every pay day I get excited and move money out of my main bank account so that I don’t see the money and aren’t tempted to spend it or feel ‘riche’, like save money on a Louis Vuitton bag.

  • Calculate your base expenses and every pay cheque, move money (whatever is left over from your base expenses and your treat expenses, challenge yourself to save more than you think you can) to your savings accounts out of your chequing account so that you feel less rich and are less apt to spend.  This is one of the reasons why I have multiple savings accounts so that I can trick myself.

  • Focus on diversifying your income streams.  Invest and get passive dividend income or find different ways to side hustle (like getting rid of stuff you don’t want that might be someone else’s treasure).  Even applying for new chequing accounts in Canada to earn $300 a pop might be a new income stream.

  • Focus on asset allocation.  The market will tank eventually (it is already showing tremendous signs of volatility).  If you’re 35 like me, and you invested in your 20’s, you would have experienced the market crash.  It was not pretty.  Even financial planners or financial advisors cannot predict what the market will do in the short term for your investment returns.  Don’t get caught with your pants down with no cash to invest.  Most importantly though- invest.  You can start DIY investing and buy a one ticket ETF at a cost of 0.25% compared to the average fees on mutual funds in Canada of over 2.25%.  ETFs are free to purchase with Questrade.

Related Post:  Asset Allocation: Do you have Canadian home bias?

  • Lower your base expenses. I check for ways to lower my monthly expenses, such as my cell phone bill- that’s why I still had a 5.5-year-old iPhone 5 and I just use BYOD (Bring Your Own Data) plans to save on the monthly cost.  This depends on your values though- if you love going to the gym (and have time despite a baby lol) then the monthly cost of a gym will be worth it for you.  For me, I just do home workouts.  Making sure your primary residence servicing costs doesn’t take up most of your percentage of your income is important too.

  • Increase your salary.   Obviously, it is easier to save money if you have a higher income because you will have more money leftover from a bare-bones monthly spending that everyone has (shelter, food, transportation etc.).  Millennials are more known to switch jobs frequently and have less ‘job loyalty’ but this can come with an advantage because it offers more opportunity for salary increase each time you switch jobs and negotiate with your new employer.

Another interesting ‘benchmark’ to calculate in addition to ‘how much should I have saved By 35?’ is how much your average salary has been over time.


Well, this is easy to do.

All I did was I just added up the salary from each year and then divided it by the number of years that I have been in the workforce (13 years).

This is how much I earned in the past 13 years= $783,130 (My net worth is almost at this number but not quite, i keep track with the Personal Capital of Canada, aka Wealthica)

Then I divide it by the number of years that I have worked, which is 13.  There were about three to four years in there where I didn’t work full-time, and one year where I was on parental leave.


My average salary (this is just salary and does not include passive income such as dividends or capital gains or investments) is over the past 13 years that I have been in the workforce.

It is a bit underwhelming number, actually (well, it’s not bad at all but considering I had a goal to earn six figures this is nowhere near that).

It is $60,240 per year.

And sadly enough, this likely won’t increase.   Though I’m okay with it.

This is because of the Motherhood Penalty (that I am actually self-imposing).  Don’t worry my husband is doing the same and he is paying the Fatherhood Penalty as well (he’s actually staying at home most days to take care of baby GYM). 

Most fathers don’t pay the fatherhood penalty and in fact, see an increase in their salary once they become a dad, and they call this the Fatherhood Bonus.  His Fatherhood Penalty is also self-imposed and he wants to spend more time with our child.


According to Reuters, the Motherhood Penalty is summarized as this:

The motherhood penalty occurs when women leave jobs altogether or move to part-time work for a period while raising children. Then, as they re-enter the workforce, they find themselves behind on both pay and career level.

The sacrifice in dollars is startling. Women without children are paid a median of $3,850 a month; mothers earn about $1,278 less each month, according to Rutledge.

This is a hot topic and every mom is different.  There are a lot of moms that I met in the play groups who have decided to not return to work and become a SAHM (or Stay at Home Mom). 

There are lots of moms who work for themselves so that they can stay at home and work on their own time (for example, after the child goes to bed).  At the same token, there are lots of moms who are going to work full-time.

Working full-time and having young children at home is very difficult (for me). 

In addition to difficulty, it’s hard to just see my kid for 2-3 hours of the day (if that), especially since he goes to bed at 7:30pm. 

By the time I get home (let’s say 5:00-5:30pm), make (or heat up) dinner, help clean up and get him ready for bed, it will be time for him to go to bed.  Then I spend the evening prep cooking or advance cooking for the next day and the cycle repeats itself again.

It is a tiring grind. This is why I am aiming for phased retirement– working part time.

Hope this post answers your question of “how much should I have saved by age 35?” to get you in the right mind frame for planning for retirement.

Anyway, it’s different for everyone, obviously you will have less saved up if you’re taking yourself out of the workforce on a full-time basis to take care of your children.

Here’s to achieving your goals of saving up enough money by age 40 😉 to retire at age 65 (or earlier) for a comfortable retirement.

Finally the most important thing is to make sure you retire happy to optimize your lifestyle in retirement.

You might also be interested in:

What do you think of these ‘benchmark’ retirement savings goals? 

Do you compare yourself to these age benchmarks each decade or half-decade of your life so far?

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21 thoughts on “How Much Should I Have Saved By 35?”

  1. Simple benchmarks like this are helpful I think for most people. But I believe it’s better to think of savings/networth/investment income against ones expenses. If I made $100,000 a year, but my annual expenses were only $20,000 the formulas using gross income do not apply very well. But it’s just easier for people to use a rule of thumb like this. Tom

  2. Hi GYM, I didn`t follow any benchmark goals. In our mid thirties we were just happy to keep up with our bills, and putting some money aside for RRSP and RESP without trying to keep up with an arbitrary benchmark.
    I honestly don`t remember how much we had saved then, sometimes I think I should go back and try to figure it out.
    But I am sure you are well ahead of where we were!

  3. These are pretty sound benchmarks for those who in their mid 30s. I’ve been reading at articles that provide such benchmarks and like to compare where I stand. And although it’s just a general amount figure, it’s something in which I like to see where I’m at with my savings and how I can get better.
    I’m close to my 40s now and when I look back when I was 35, I was just trying to saving as much as I can coming off paying off student loans.

  4. Hi GYM, I feel that’s a good guideline. If we can meet it, that’s great. If we can exceed it, that’s even better. I agree with Tom, expenses play a big part in this equation. Lower expenses means the money saved/invested will last longer.

    The age 35 seems like a long time ago to me. Haha, I’m getting old. Anyway, I didn’t have 2 times of the salary saved then, as my career in US just took off. Luckily it worked out okay at the end.

    • @Helen- Maybe I have too much of a pessimistic view, but there is a lot of pessimism about how the markets will fare. The 7% annualized return is too hopeful these days. Good to know that even in a short time you were able to do so well and FI!

  5. To increase the savings from 1 to 2 years of annual income in just five years is quite easy.

    Just lower the annual income by half and you get there without any effort. This would allow you to meet the benchmark but somehow I don’t think that is the outcome that you’d want

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  7. Hey great post GYM and welcome to the 35 club :), as for me I think I’m doing ok. I have triple my salary in my investing accounts but not in cash. This year I got hired on as a permanent employee with my current employer and they match dollar for dollar my pension contributions, so that will definitely help he down the road.

    Hope you are doing great!


    • @Matthew- NIIIICE bring on the pension contributions! I like diversifying my retirement income and contributing to my pension too!

  8. Well, by the age of 35 one of the more important things is to ensure that we do have a pension plan in place. So that when we retire we are okay. And insurance….insurance is a must for life and health!


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