The Magic Numbers of Retirement Planning

Use these guideposts to help you prepare for retirement.

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3 years. It took three years for the average 401(k) balance to climb back to the amount it held in 2007. The average Fidelity 401(k) held $69,200 in 2007, before it plunged to $50,200 in 2008, due to market declines. It took until 2010 for continued saving and the stock market rebound to push 401(k) balances above their 2007 peaks. The average Fidelity 401(k) account balance was $71,500 at the end of 2010.

[See 401(k) Mistakes Job Hoppers Make.]

83.5. A male born in 1946 can expect to live 17.5 more years, until age 83.5. Once he makes it to 70, his life expectancy increases to 84.7, according to Social Security Administration data. A woman of the same age currently has a life expectancy of 85.7 years. For the earliest female baby boomers retiring this year, that's an average of nearly 20 years of retirement that must be financed. Many financial advisers recommend planning for at least a 30-year retirement if you are in good health, in case you live longer than expected. "Remember, that's just the average, and that's not really including medical advances, so we plan on at least age 91 for our clients at retirement, and 96 or 101 for younger clients," says Rick Brooks, a certified financial planner and vice president of Blankinship & Foster in Solana Beach, Calif. "It's better to plan on living too long and die with money left over, than to plan on living the average and come up short on resources."

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