piggy bankIt’s absolutely essential, few would argue. But how much money to save?

The question is addressed in an excellent Kelli B. Grant piece for cnbc.com. “A little more than half of households are at risk of being unable to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyle in retirement, “she writes, citing reports from “the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. A big part of the problem: lackluster savings rates.” Other excerpts from her article:

“The Vanguard Group estimated that the median retirement-plan contribution rate was 6 percent in 2014, while the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies put it at 8 percent this year. Workers in plans with auto enrollment may save even less, with some sticking to the default contribution rates of 3 percent or less.

“That’s shy of the often-bandied rule of thumb to set aside at least 10 to 15 percent of your annual income, with those savings including your contributions as well as any employer match to a retirement plan. Worse, it may be far short of your ideal rate based on your age, expected retirement horizon and past savings patterns.

“So-so savings today can make it harder to catch up down the line. Based on current savings rates, workers in their 30s would need to increase their savings rate by 7 to 8 percentage points to meet retirement goals by age 65, while those in their 40s would need to set aside 13 to 16 percentage points more, a 2014 report from the Center for Retirement Research found.

“What’s worse is that households with workers in their 50s, depending on their income, might need to boost contributions 29 to 35 percentage points to have adequate savings.

“Curbing spending now can not only free up cash now for retirement savings and other goals, but it’ll also mean you’ll be able to get by on less in retirement (assuming you plan to maintain or decrease your current cost of living after you retire).”