Can You Retire With $300k?

By Justin Pritchard, CFP®

Your comfort in retirement depends on your ability to satisfy wants and needs. With more financial resources, you’re better prepared. But you might not need as much as you think.

Retirees often leave the workforce with about $300,000 in retirement assets. According to Federal Reserve data, the average household between the ages of 55 and 64 has about $408,000, while the median (or the “middle” measurement) has about $134,000.

So, what might retirement look like, and how long will the money last after you start spending?

$300k is sufficient for many people to retire, in part because you can avoid some of the biggest tax hurdles that may arise for more wealthy retirees. That said, whether or not it’s enough depends on your circumstances (spending levels, location, health, and more).

On this page:

  • Why income and assets matter
  • How long will $300k last in retirement?
  • Retirees with $300k might not pay income tax

Continue reading below, or get similar information from this video.

Income and Assets

Your resources are the key to understanding your retirement finances. For most people, resources consist of two things:

  • Income from Social Security, pensions, or both
  • Assets that you intend to spend in retirement

Your resources need to last for your entire life. You can’t predict how long you’ll live, but you can make some educated guesses based on reasonable assumptions. With that information, you can decide whether or not you’re ready to retire and how much you can spend from your assets.

Start by taking inventory of your resources. That may include creating an account with the Social Security Administration (SSA.gov) and learning about your Social Security retirement benefit. If you have a pension, it’s wise to contact your employer to learn how much income you can expect at different ages.

Your income forms the base of your retirement strategy. You typically receive payments for as long as you live, which helps if you’re fortunate enough to live a long life.

But Social Security and pensions might not be enough to live on. Say you get $2,000 per month from Social Security. Will you be comfortable? For households getting two payments, that’s an excellent start, and it might be sufficient. Still, you may need to supplement those payments by spending from your assets.

How Long Will $300k Last?

It depends on economic conditions and how much you withdraw each year. If you plan to take 4% or less from the portfolio annually, there’s a decent chance the assets could last at least 30 years. That’s roughly $12,000 per year. However, things might go better or worse for you.

Most people spend from their savings in retirement. So, if you have a $300,000 nest egg, how do you make it last for as long as possible? You might want to spend a little bit each month, and you may also want to spend in “chunks” for home repairs, vacations, and other expenses.

Unless you can predict the future, you need to make some guesses: how long you’ll live, how investments and markets will behave, how tax law changes and inflation affect your situation, and more.

While there’s no perfect way to plan for withdrawals, several techniques can help you make decisions.

Do Withdrawal Rates Make Sense?

To make $300k last for your entire life, it’s critical to withdraw at a slow enough rate to prevent running out of money. Pretty obvious, right? But what’s the right rate?

It’s impossible to predict your “safe” withdrawal rate in advance. However, there is plenty of research on how much retirees can withdraw using different strategies. Still, there’s never a guarantee that these strategies will work. A few examples are below.

4% Rule: The so-called “4% Rule” is a research finding—not a rule. Bill Bengen looked at the worst-case scenarios at the time of his study (in the early 1990s). He asked how much a retiree could withdraw from a portfolio with the money lasting for 30 years. In the worst outcome, it was 4% of the portfolio’s starting value. A few notes:

  • In many cases, retirees could withdraw more.
  • You increase your withdrawal each year to match inflation (you apply 4% to your savings at retirement, and then increase the dollar amount annually).
  • The guideline ignores taxation.
  • The study assumed a portfolio of 50% stocks and 50% bonds.
  • With a more diverse allocation, you might be able to withdraw more.

For more details, see this article and video on the 4% withdrawal guideline.

Guardrails: Another approach is to use “guardrails” that promote higher spending when things go well and spending cuts when markets crash. To use this strategy, you evaluate your portfolio every year. If the value rises above certain levels, you can give yourself a raise. When the value falls below a certain threshold, you need to cut spending. You might start using guardrails with a 5.4% withdrawal rate and adjust as the future unfolds.

Other strategies: There are endless ways to choose how much to withdraw from your savings each year, but the two above are among the most popular. You could also just withdraw a set percentage without adjusting for inflation, making your $300k last for the rest of your life. But you might not be able to withdraw enough to live on. For instance, if you just withdraw 4% of your account value and recalculate every year (which is different from the 4% rule above, which only looks at your starting balance at retirement), you’ll leave 96% of your balance invested each year. Ultimately, the withdrawal amount available might dwindle to unreasonably small amounts over time.

Income Taxes for Retirees With $300k

Taxes are a crucial piece of any retirement strategy. You can only spend what’s left over after taxes, and income tax is a reality for most people.

Fortunately, when you’re retiring with roughly $300k, you might not face a large tax burden. Taxes in the U.S. are generally progressive—the more income you have, the higher the rates. You’re likely to have a relatively low taxable income with about $300k in assets.

Example

Assume the following situation for your retirement:

  • You have $300,000 in pre-tax retirement savings. All of that money is potentially subject to taxation.
  • You use the 4% guideline to (hopefully) make your money last for 30 years or more, so you withdraw $12,000 in your first year of retirement.
  • You are married and filing jointly (we’ll do a single example below)
  • Your household gets $48,000 per year in Social Security benefits (assuming two people get $2,000/month each).
  • Total cash flow for the year is $60,000 (that’s Social Security plus withdrawals).

Some of the top questions you should be asking are:

  1. Will you need to pay taxes on your Social Security benefit?
  2. How much income tax will you pay?
  3. How much is left over for spending?
  4. Is that enough to live on?

Will you pay tax on Social Security?

In some cases, Social Security is tax-free. But with a high income, some or most of your benefits might be taxable.

Waterfall chart showing Social Security plus IRA withdrawals for total combined income

This couple has a “combined income” that’s just a bit higher than the threshold for taxable benefits, and $2,000 of their Social Security will be included in income. Add that $2,000 to the $12,000 of pre-tax IRA distributions for total income (or AGI) of $14,000.

Next, apply the standard or itemized deduction to determine “taxable” income. In this case, the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly in 2023 is $29,200 (over age 65). As a result, the deduction completely wipes out the income, leaving them with a tax bill of zero.

Again, this couple owes no federal income tax, and they can spend all $60,000 of the cash flow.

In fact, these people might consider taking out more or converting pre-tax assets to Roth if they want to do some tax planning.

For a single person:

  • $300,000 in pre-tax retirement savings
  • $12,000 of withdrawals in the first year of retirement
  • Filing single
  • You get $24,000 per year in Social Security benefits
  • Total cash flow for the year is $36,000 (the Social Security plus withdrawals)

In this case, none of your Social Security is taxable. What’s more, your standard deduction wipes out the $12,000 of income, leaving you with a federal income tax bill of zero.

Waterfall chart showing total taxable income after deduction for single filer, Social Security benefits are not included in income

As you can see, you’re unlikely to face significant tax issues if you withdraw from your assets at a modest rate. But those with larger balances create bigger withdrawals, which can cause tax problems. Try this tax calculator to look at your own numbers and make some rough estimates.

Of course, if you take large lump-sum withdrawals (to buy a vehicle or fund home renovations, for instance), you might pay more in taxes in some years.

Is It Enough?

While $300k allows you to dodge some of the highest tax rates (in some years), is it enough to live on? That depends on your situation.

The main drivers include how much you spend and how much retirement income you get. If you have a generous income from pensions or Social Security, $300k might be plenty. But without significant resources, your spending needs to be relatively low.

The amount you’ll spend depends on several factors. For example, costs depend on where you live, what health issues you face, your lifestyle, and more. With low costs, your savings can last longer.

To understand how your income and assets might affect your retirement, try this retirement planning calculator.

Could You Live Off the Interest?

Living off the interest with $300k can be difficult unless you have a significant income from Social Security or pensions. Assuming a 4% interest rate, that’s $12,000 per year of earnings, and the amount would not increase unless rates increase. But interest rates could also fall, leaving you with less each year.

For most people, the key to retirement planning is withdrawing from assets gradually. In some years, your principal (or “corpus,” or original investment) grows. In other years, you draw down the principal. Ideally, the funds last for your entire life.

Can You Retire at 50 With $300k?

It may be possible if you have low expenses and income from other sources. Assuming a 4% withdrawal rate, the funds might generate $12,000 of annual income. That’s probably not enough for most people, and you typically don’t get Social Security until your 60s. But if you have a pension, rental income, or other resources, it may be possible to live comfortably starting at age 50.

Keep in mind that the so-called 4% rule could allow funds to last longer than the 30 years targeted in the study. In fact, Michael Kitces found historical models showing you ended up with the same amount you started with (or more) about 60% of the time—assuming a 30-year time horizon. Of course, past performance does not guarantee future results, but a modest withdrawal rate can potentially enable assets to last for a long time.