Is that too strong a word? How about nuts? Any better? Of course, rather than being unkind, why not simply say that people underestimate….


Here's what I mean. According to the 2004 Retirement Conference Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the American Savings Education Council, only 58 percent of American workers are currently putting anything aside for retirement. A little more than half. We don't include my eight-year old grandsons here. They're having enough trouble not walking into walls.


Yet, there is a ton of financial planners out there who say that more than two-thirds of American Workers say they are quite sure they'll have plenty of money to retire comfortably. I wonder what they mean by comfortably.


So, I asked some people on the beach last weekend. What accounts for your confidence? Here are the responses I received.


1. "Social Security will provide the money." What? Have you gone bonkers? Have you read the papers lately? The Social Security Administration already admits that it has serious future financial problems and Alan Greenspan has targeted those benefits. Do you realize that the average benefit is well under a $1,000 a month, more like $900 and change. Hey, What's your rent or mortgage payment?


2. "No sweat. I have money from another source." Okay, we'll buy that. Some people actually do but according to the survey, only 56 percent of workers have less than $50,000 saved. Again, a little more than half. And if you count in those who are 55 and older, only a quarter of them has at least $100,000 saved. You think that's going to go far today especially when the life expectancy is much longer than ever?


3. "I have a 401(k) plan." Wonderful except that many employers have started deep-sixing a company-funded "defined benefit" pension plan and have moved toward a defined-contribution" plan that requires employees to ante up the money, except for an employer match, which is rather minimal, and to incur any risk. Look back at the most recent stats from the Institute and you will find that defined-benefit plans represent more than 70 percent of company retirement plans in 1975 but only represent around 25 percent today. That's quite a drop, folks.


And then you can throw in a mixed batch of other reasons such as, "I'll save later when I get out from my current debt," "I have faith in God," "I look for an inheritance" (nice).


So, what can you do? Sit down with a financial guru and take a x-ray of your financial position. There are ways to get more money into the retirement pot and it's never too late to get started. Listen, the survey says that two-thirds of all workers claim they could save an additional $20 a week if they cut back on something. If you consider a modest return of five percent a year, that $20 a week grows into $50,000 after 25 years. Here’s another example. Take a 25-year old. He or she contributes $250 a month to an IRA for 10 years. That's a $30,000 total investment which will become $400,000 by age 67, without any further contributions after 10 years, based on a return of seven percent a year from diversified portfolio.


Hey, it can be done.

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