Planning Your Retirement

Retiring on $1 Million: How Long Will it Last?

By Elaine Silvestrini
Published:

Not many people are able to accumulate $1 million in retirement savings.

In fact, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, families headed by people between the ages of 56 and 61 have a mean retirement savings account balance of $166,577.

Disturbingly, the report says that even families nearing retirement have little or no retirement savings.

Only the top 1 percent of families has managed to sock away $1 million or more for retirement, the report says.

What if you’ve beaten the odds and have saved $1 million for your golden years? How long will that money last?

Well that depends on where you live, according to a study by the website SmartAsset.com.

Nationally, $1 million should last about 30 years in retirement, website spokesman Steve Sabato told Annuity.org.

But that can be extended or reduced depending on where you live.

Study Examined Retirement Costs

SmartAsset.com looked at 261 U.S. cities and calculated the average cost of living for retirees.

The study accounted for data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine the average yearly expenditures of seniors and cost of living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

The study assumed $1 million would grow 2 percent a year, accounting for interest minus inflation.

The city with the best numbers would allow $1 million in retirement savings to last a whopping 42.3 years.

A retiree in the worst city in the rankings would blow through that money is a little more than 12.5 years.

For each location, the site gave average annual expenses for housing, food, health care, utilities and transportation.

Housing Costs Make Key Difference

The biggest difference, not surprisingly, came in housing costs. The city where retirement money will go the furthest has under $6,000 in housing costs for a year, while the city where the money will disappear faster costs more than $41,000 a year for housing.

By comparison, national annual housing expenses were estimated at $8,819.

In general, the places where money will last the shortest amount of time were major metropolitan areas.

The worst city probably won’t come as a big surprise. New York is notorious for being an expensive place to live.

And so where is the best place to make $1 million last the longest in retirement?

The border town of McAllen, Texas.

McAllen was also rated by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s best places to live with “a very vibrant metro area and a major center for retail, international trade, tourism and manufacturing.”

The town also offers “a high quality of life, an abundance of medical facilities and young, bicultural communities.”

The town — population 828,000 — was rated as 115th for best places to live and 6th as one of the best places to retire.

Here are the SmartAsset.com’s stats for the top and bottom five cities and how many years $1 million is estimated to last for retirees:

National Housing Food Healthcare Utilities Transport Years
$8,819 $5,804 $5,994 $3,548 $6,814 30.06
Rank City Housing Food Healthcare Utilities Transport Years
1 McAllen, Texas $5,891 $4,782 $4,579 $3,210 $5,553 42.29
2 Harlingen, Texas $6,420 $4,759 $5,244 $3,349 $5,676 39.46
3 Richmond, Indiana $5,846 $5,310 $4,663 $3,079 $5,900 39.31
4 Kalamazoo, Mich. $5,705 $4,799 $5,484 $3,129 $6,091 38.07
5 Cleveland, Tenn. $6,393 $5,258 $5,118 $2,962 $5,539 37.44
257 Boston $17,743 $6,135 $8,002 $5,606 $7,673 18.72
258 Seattle $15,848 $7,272 $7,654 $4,360 $9,451 18.70
259 San Francisco, $28,494 $7,603 $7,163 $3,800 $9,260 15.93
260 Honolulu $27,656 $9,524 $6,755 $7,181 $9,090 14.81
261 New York $41,088 $7,441 $6,929 $4,510 $9,104 12.54

For another take, another website, howmuch.net, analyzed how long $1 million would last retirees in every state.

In that analysis the top five states were:

  1. Mississippi – 25 years, 6 months
  2. Arkansas – 25 years
  3. Tennessee – 24 years, 5 months
  4. Kansas – 24 years, 5 months
  5. Oklahoma – 24 years, 4 months

The bottom five states:

  1. Hawaii – 13 years, 1 month
  2. District of Columbia – 14 years, 2 months
  3. California – 15 years
  4. Oregon – 16 years, 7 months
  5. New York – 16 years, 7 months

Although Texas had two cities in the top five in the SmartAsset.com study, the state as a whole ranked 9th in the howmuch.net analysis, with $1 million projected to last 24 years and 1 month in retirement.

  1. Smartasset.com. (n.d.). How Many Years $1 Million Lasts in Retirement. Retrieved from https://smartasset.com/financial-advisor/new-york-ny-top-financial-advisors#map
  2. Sabato, S. (2018, May 3). Email interview with annuity.org.
  3. USNews.com. (n.d.). Best Places. McAllen, Texas. Retrieved from https://realestate.usnews.com/places/texas/mcallen
  4. Morrissey, M. (2016, March 3). The State of American Retirement. How 401(k)s have failed most American Workers. Retrieved from https://www.epi.org/publication/retirement-in-america/#charts
  5. Howmuch.net. (2017, October 12). Can you Retire on $1 Million? Here is How Long You Can Survive in Every State. Retrieved from https://howmuch.net/articles/one-million-retirement-by-state
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