With more than 76 million Baby Boomers moving toward retirement, the need to save more money for a secure financial future is clear.These individuals, who currently constitute 29 percent of the U.S. population, are putting away only one third of the estimated amount that they need to retire comfortably.

Saving for retirement is more important now then ever before. According to a recent study conducted by the National Association for Variable Annuities - a nonprofit trade association - an overwhelming 95 percent of Americans have financial fears about their long-term retirement plans. Many of these individuals are particularly concerned about their retirement income. Their fears include running out of money prematurely and having to lower their standard of living during retirement.

There is an enormous difference between what Americans are saving and what they should be saving for the future.

On average, a person reaching retirement has only saved $70,000 for their future lifestyles. Daily expenses, including food, gas, heating, electricity and car insurance, are and will continue to be monumental, especially if Social Security and other programs diminish in value. Over time, this leads to the reduction of an individual's earning power.

Since the inflation rate has been modest for years, only 9 percent of Americans surveyed report that they are concerned about how inflation could negatively impact their retirement. However, inflation still slightly increases each year and can erode the value of retirement savings over time. Americans are living longer due to the increased quality of health care, averaging a life expectancy around 77 years of age. This means that adults can spend between one to three decades in retirement, resulting in the need for a significant retirement nest egg.

In addition to concerns about basic living necessities, the cost of health care in the United States is rising, and many Americans will not have enough to support their growing medical needs in the near future.

Fidelity Investments estimated that the average 65-year-old couple retiring today would need a minimum of $190,000 to cover medical costs over the next 15 to 20 years. High-cost health care services such as outpatient care, frequent medical appointments and prescription drugs can quickly drain one's retirement savings. Some advisors estimate that the retiring Baby Boomers will need more than $1 million.

The saving begins

Baby Boomers are understandably altering their financial plan to migrate away from providing for their children to planning for their own retirement. Saving for the future can be a daunting task, and trying to determine how much to put away and how to go about it can be difficult.

Currently, 75 percent of Baby Boomers say that they have or would likely use a financial professional for planning advice. Financial advisors have an extraordinary ability to help clients achieve financial security. With retirement concerns edging forward in Boomers' thinking, this is the right time for them to talk with a qualified financial planner about financial goals, including retirement.

The financial planning process analyzes their financial resources, obligations and goals, resulting in a personalized financial plan. As part of the planning process, advisors evaluate a client's comfort level with investment risk and ask probing questions about client objectives and expectations. An advisor helps clients create a financial plan that will help meet short-term financial goals and conquer the challenges of long-term goals such as retirement.

There are nearly 300,000 financial advisors in the United States. But the question challenging consumers is, how can they find an advisor to trust and who knows the latest financial trends and techniques that will help plan for the future and provide the best advice possible?

For America's Baby Boomers, now is the time to prepare for retirement. With the help of expert financial planning, Boomers can maximize the income of their highest earnings years and create financial security that will ensure a successful and comfortable retirement in their golden years.

Noel Kirkner is the director of public relations at The American College, a nonprofit educator of insurance and financial services professionals in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

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