How Much Is Enough?

Question: I've yet to find a book or article that can answer this question: How do you know if you're financially okay?

I'm 38. I make $80k a year. I have $250k divided between a Roth IRA, 401k, and a single account. I put 20% down on a condo and the mortgage is the only debt I have. I also have long-term care insurance. Can I stop worrying? C. Houston, TX

Answer: Why is it that dire jeremiads about getting old resonate with so many of us? Why is it that conversations about retirement at work and the neighborhood barbeque so often turn into a litany of woe and dark humor?

Certainly, some segments of society are extremely vulnerable in their old age, such as poorly educated, low skill workers. But for many others, from the worker on the factory floor to the professional with an office--to someone like you--the apprehension largely stems from the realization that there is no way of knowing how much is enough to fund a lifestyle--let alone medical bills.

Yet most people will find themselves in decent financial circumstances with room for maneuver late in life by following some basic savings strategies and taking a broad perspective on investment. And that includes you from what you've told us. Keep doing what you are doing.

As important, take the time to carefully thinking through "What really matters to me?" That way you'll continue to come up with devise sensible answers to the question "How much is enough?"

One book that I like for thinking about a question like yours is Ralph Warner's Get A Life: You Don't Need a Million to Retire Well. Another one is The Number by Lee Eisenberg.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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