Summer Savings: How Much Will it Cost to Eat in Retirement?

Jun 23, 2021

By Theresa Fry, Senior Vice President and Manager, IRA’s, Retirement & Education Planning

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Do you know how much it will cost to eat in retirement? Consider this example, at $5.00 per meal, eating three meals a day, 365 days in the year, for a retirement period of 20 years, it will cost a retired couple $219,000 just to eat in retirement.  That assumes there will be no inflation on the cost of groceries during that 20-year period.  If you plan to eat out regularly, it is probably more realistic to plan for $10.00 per meal ($30.00 per person per day) which would double the cost to $438,000.

In 1940, the average life expectancy of a 65-year old was almost 14 years; today it is just over 20 years. [i]  But, what if your retirement period is longer than 20 years?  The Social Security Administration reports that about one out of every three 65-year-olds will live past age 90 and one out of seven will live past age 95.[ii]  The problem with relying on averages is that you may live significantly longer than the average person based on your current health, lifestyle and family history.

Cost to Eat in Retirement

For a
Retired Couple

Cost Per Meal

20-Year Retirement Period

25-Year Retirement Period

30-Year Retirement Period





2% Inflation


($7.28 per meal)


($8.04 per meal)


($8.88 per meal)





2% Inflation


($14.56 per meal


($16.08 per meal)


($17.76 per meal)


At $5.00 per meal, if your retirement period extends to 25 years, a retired couple would need $273,750 to eat three meals a day; for 30 years it would be $328,500. Double that for $10.00 per meal to $574,500 for 25 years or $657,000 for 30 years just to eat!  If the cost of a meal increases 2% each year, the amount of money spent on three meals a day over 30 years would be $444,220.47 if a meal costs $5.00 today or $888,440.94 if a meal costs $10.00 today.

If those numbers seem a bit intimidating when you compare them to what you have saved for retirement, consider another example – the early saver vs. late saver.

The Early Saver

The early saver begins making IRA contributions ($6,000 a year) at age 25 and continues until age 35. At age 35, the early saver stops making IRA contributions, but lets the IRA grow until retirement at age 65. Total IRA contributions for the early saver are $66,000.  Earning a hypothetical 6% annual rate of return, the IRA would be valued at $546,893 at age 65.

The Late Saver

The late saver begins making IRA contributions at age 35 ($6,000 a year) and continues making contributions until retirement at age 65. Total IRA contributions for the late saver are $186,000. Earning the same hypothetical 6% annual rate of return as the early saver, the late saver would have an IRA value of $539,339 at age 65.


The early saver contributed less than the late saver ($120,000 less) but has an IRA balance at age 65 that is higher ($7,554 higher).  If the early saver had continued making annual contributions until age 65 and continued earning 6% a year, the IRA balance would have grown to $1,049,703.

IRAs are available to anyone who has earned income.  For a married couple, filing a joint income tax return, only one of the two spouses are required to have earned income.  Traditional IRAs may provide an income tax deduction for annual contributions if income is below IRS limits.  Roth IRAs do not provide an income tax deduction for annual contributions, but contributions can only be made if income is below IRS limits.  Both provide tax-deferred savings and are intended to provide retirement income.  In general, income taxes apply to withdrawals from traditional IRAs, but withdrawals from a Roth IRA may be income tax free if certain conditions are met.  In addition, a 10% tax penalty may apply to taxable withdrawals made before the age of 59 ½.

Regardless of your plans for retirement, everyone needs to eat!  IRAs offer a tax-advantaged way to save for your retirement.  Don’t be a late saver, forced to save more to meet your retirement goals.  Talk to a financial advisor today to get started on your IRA.

Note: Early saver vs. late saver example is for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the performance of any investment. Assumes a 6% hypothetical annual return and does not reflect taxes, fees, or inflation. There is no guarantee that an investor will be able to attain a consistent rate of return.

Benjamin F. Edwards does not provide tax advice; therefore, it is also important to consult with your tax professional for additional guidance tailored to your specific situation.


[i] Social Security Basic Facts (

[ii] When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits 2021 (