Just about every news cycle seems to bring the release of yet another study that clearly illustrates how investors are in denial about retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute, for instance, conducted a recent survey that concluded that one out of every four workers is "very confident" about the prospects of paying his or her retirement tab.
There would be nothing odd about that statistic unless you knew that 22 percent of these folks aren't setting aside anything for retirement. Another 40 percent have saved up less than $50,000. Now that's quite a disconnect.
For many people, getting serious about retirement planning ranks with clearing out the garage to make room for the SUV. Many of us would rather park in the driveway forever than get motivated to haul all our stuff to the curb or to Goodwill.
I suspect, however, that some people would become more focused on retirement if they could consult a cheat sheet. I don't think one exists, but I've tossed in a few suggestions for what you should consider doing.
RETHINK CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
For years, the financial industry has been nagging people to reserve 10 percent of their salaries for retirement. If you can stash away 10 percent for many years, you should be set. That, at least, was the line everybody kept parroting. Maybe, however, the experts were a bit too sanguine.
T. Rowe Price, the mutual fund firm, is now suggesting that investors crank it up a notch and save at least 15 percent of their pretax salary. Why the switch? Christine Fahlund, a senior financial planner at the firm, said T. Rowe Price was seeing many people who had to postpone retirement, even though they had faithfully followed the 10 percent rule.
According to the fund family's calculations, if you squirrel away at least 15 percent, you should be able to replace 50 percent or more of your salary, adjusted for inflation, during your retirement. With any luck, Social Security and a pension will fill in the rest of the gap.
Late-blooming savers, however, will have to somehow figure out a way to sink 25 percent or more into their retirement accounts. (Don't blame me for this downer, I'm just the messenger.)
DON'T BE TIMID
When Americans retire, they often believe they can no longer risk investing in the stock market. Instead they bunker down in a financial bomb shelter, which they've built with certificates of deposit, money markets, bonds and other safe investments.