Ask ‘what do I need to retire comfortably’ and you’re likely to get a range of answers depending on whom you asked. For many Americans, especially those approaching retirement age, it’s a burning question that deserves a good answer. The problem is that a comfortable retirement income for a couple down the street may not be the same as what you and your spouse will need. Everyone defines ‘comfortable’ differently.

So, how do you know what you’ll need?

The Problem with the One-Size-Fits-All Answer

You may have heard the conventional wisdom. General guidelines suggest having 10 to 12 times your income in savings if you want to retire and maintain your current lifestyle. If you’re getting ready to retire soon, that figure might cause you to feel a sense of panic. Most Americans don’t even come close to that level of retirement savings.

Before you go into panic mode, however, it’s important to note that there’s no such simple formula that works for everyone. Calculating your ‘retirement number’ is a lot more complex than multiplying your savings times 10.

Your ‘Retirement Number’ is as Unique as You Are

Just like everything else you do in life, the way you retire is unique to you. We all have friends who seem to be able to live very happily on very little, while others go through cash like it’s their job to spend money. A comfortable retirement income for couples who are used to being frugal probably won’t seem feasible for couples with larger spending budgets. Those with simpler tastes may be able to get away with a retirement number that’s closer to just five times their annual income in savings.

So again, how do you know how much you’ll need?

What you ultimately need for a comfortable retirement lies somewhere between what you want out of retirement and where you plan to live. Here’s some food for thought (and some questions to ask) on how to decide what you want for this next exciting phase of life.

What Retirement Lifestyle Do You Want?

Determining your retirement lifestyle is really a matter of separating your wants from your needs. Get a pencil and write down your basic budget, which includes your ‘mandatory’ expenses.

Your debt will play a big role in your budget. Do you own your home free and clear? How old is your home? Do you foresee heavy maintenance and repair bills coming your way? How high are necessary utilities?

You’ll also need to peer into the future of your health status. Are you healthy now? How will you manage when you eventually need help — do family members live nearby? These factors will weigh heavily on your budget, too.

Now for your ‘wants.’ If you want to see the world, your retirement spending could end up becoming quite high. If you plan on dining out regularly, that will figure in your projections as well. Retiring at the beach, buying a new home in a retirement community, or traveling regularly to see family will have an effect on your calculations, too.

If you count yourself among those future jet-setting retirees, you’ll need to aim high with your retirement savings. Some retirement planners suggest that a comfortable retirement income for couples who plan to travel would be 100 percent of their pre-retirement income.

Are You Planning for Any Major Costs?

Even if you don’t plan to zip around the globe, living it up in four-star hotels as you see the sights, you’ll still need to plan for some big-ticket items.

One of them is healthcare. According to AARP, Medicare might only cover about half your medical costs. Even for healthy couples, the average cost of healthcare premiums is well over a quarter of a million dollars according to CNBC.

What Do I Need to Retire Comfortably?’ Remember, It’s Not All About Money 

‘Comfortable’ usually has financial undertones, but keep in mind that money is only part of the retirement equation. One huge factor is your living accommodations – comfortable for you may mean a retirement community where you have pleasant accommodations, access to a pool or golf course, and don’t have to worry about raking leaves, shoveling snow, or home repairs.

It also can mean how you want to spend your time. Most people want to continue to feel useful and connected to society, even after they stop working. In fact, lots of folks view retirement as a chance to give back, volunteer, and get involved in ways they never had time for before.

What you want to get out of retirement is up to you, of course. There are some pretty hefty decisions ahead of you! If that seems a little overwhelming, it may help to sit down and examine your core values. Instead of asking yourself, ‘what do I need to retire comfortably?’ ask yourself, ‘what will make me a better person?’ or, ‘who do I want to be?’

There are no easy answers to those tough questions. Start by examining your present life. What makes you feel ‘alive’? What makes you feel happy? How do you connect with others now, in your present lifestyle? These answers could translate into answers for your retirement goals.

Where Do You Plan to Retire?

Lifestyle choices matter, but one of the most significant determining factors is location. The cost of living can swing dramatically from state to state. That’s because factors like the following change whenever you go across state borders:

  • Taxes 
  • Cost of living 
  • Weather 
  • Healthcare 

The fluctuations can be dramatic, too. According to MSN Money, it may only cost $39,170 per year to retire in Alabama, while it could cost nearly double that amount to retire in places like New York or Washington, D.C..


You have your homework cut out for you. In addition to asking yourself some very complex questions about budgets, lifestyle, and your health, you’ve got the idea of geography to consider. Where you retire has almost as much impact on how ‘comfortable’ your retirement years will be as all the other factors combined.

To make it easy, we’ve gathered information about the benefits of retiring in nine different states for folks like you. It’s for people who are considering retiring in a different state and want to make an informed decision. To learn more, simply pick a state from the list below to learn about retiring comfortably. It may be the easiest first step you could ever take toward making those all-important decisions about your future.