How much do you have put away for retirement?

A million dollars? Five hundred thousand? Five hundred dollars?

If you’re like a third of Americans, the final answer is closer to the truth.

About 36 percent of workers have less than a thousand dollars in savings and investments that could be used for retirement, not counting their home or defined benefit plans such as traditional pensions (increasingly rare).

More than half, 60 percent, have less than $25,000, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 workers and 501 retirees, conducted by the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald and Associates.

Worse, only 44 percent say they or their spouses have even tried to calculate how much money they’ll need to save by the time they retire so that they can retire with dignity.

Retirement plans make the difference, according to the survey; 73 percent of those without a retirement plan such as an IRA, 401(k) or 403(b) have less than $1,000 in savings.

That’s scary news for folks that worry about Social Security and Medicaid, especially with millions of Baby Boomers headed toward retirement and rising costs of pre-retirement health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. That’s especially true, given the average American spends 20 years in retirement.

Surprisingly, people think they are better prepared for retirement than they were five years ago, perhaps because of stock market gains since the housing collapse in 2008.

Eighteen percent of workers in 2014 say they are confident they can retire comfortably, compared to 13 percent last year.

Saving regularly and starting early is the best plan, but putting something away for retirement is a good idea whenever you start.

The U.S. Department of Labor offers some good advice when it comes to thinking about retirement.

  1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals. Use automatic contributions if possible.
  2. Know your retirement needs, plan on 70 percent of your pre-retirement income.
  3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan, and contribute all you can.
  4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan, if available.
  5. Consider basic investment principles, goals, financial circumstances and options.
  6. Don’t touch your retirement savings.
  7. Ask your employer to start a plan.
  8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account, up to $5,500 a year or more if you are 50 or older.
  9. Find out about your Social Security benefits.
  10. Ask questions.

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Source: McCook Daily Gazette