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10 Shocking Stats

If you look around your workplace or neighborhood and see well-dressed, well-fed people who successfully maintain homes and raise children, you might think that all is well in the world, financially speaking. You might expect everyone has portfolios full of stocks such as Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , Pepsi (NYSE: PEP  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) .

You'd be wrong.

The facts
Here are 10 shocking statistics (or groups of statistics) that reveal too many people are not thinking sufficiently enough about financial matters. Consider sending this article to people you care about who aren't tending to their financial gardens -- it may be a wake-up call they'll thank you for in years to come. (Just click on the "Email this page" link in the box above.)

  1. Only 37% of American workers say they have calculated how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire. Making matters worse, many who say they have crunched the numbers used less-than-reliable methods or obtained dubious results. (2003 Retirement Confidence Survey)

  2. A whopping 29% of workers say they have not saved for retirement at all. Regardless of whether or not they have saved for retirement, 48% have no stocks or stock mutual funds, either inside or outside of a workplace retirement savings plan.

  3. Many Americans at or near retirement age would require more than $1 million to pre-fund medical costs over their remaining years. For those with employment-based insurance, the maximum figure exceeds $500,000. (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

    (Are you clutching your heart now -- shocked, appalled, and freaked out about your future? Put down that hemlock. There's good news ahead, after a few more depressing but important stats. Read on.)

  4. Most financial planners say a person needs between 70%-80% of his or her pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement. But for the average worker, Social Security replaces only about 40% of pre-retirement income. The balance must come from pensions and personal savings. ("Save for Your Future" Campaign)

  5. After earning lower salaries for fewer years, women's Social Security benefits are about half of men's. Over 75% of all women are eventually widowed at an average age of 56. Almost one in four women are broke within two months of her husband passing away. Fifty-three percent of women are not covered by a pension compared to only 22 percent of men. (Women's Institute for Financial Education)

  6. On average, Americans owe about $8,000 per household on credit cards. The average household with at least one credit card has 6.0 bank credit cards, 8.3 retail credit cards, and 2.4 debit cards for a total of 16.7 cards. There were roughly 5 billion credit card offers mailed last year to about 200 million individuals in the U.S. This means the average person receives about 25 per year. The average household receives more than one per week. (CardWeb.com)

  7. Only 38% of parents report that they generally pay off their credit cards completely each billing cycle. (2001 Parents, Youth & Money Survey)

  8. Twenty-eight percent of students age 16-22 say they have a major credit card. Twenty-eight percent of those students with a major credit card say they roll over credit card debt each month. Forty percent of students are likely to buy a pair of jeans (or something similar) they really want even if they do not have the money to pay for it. Twenty-two percent would pay for it with a credit card. (1999 Youth & Money Survey)

  9. About 45% of investors [mistakenly] believe that diversification essentially guarantees that their portfolio won't suffer if the stock market drops. (The Facts on Saving and Investing, pdf file)

  10. "While 63% know the difference between a halfback and a quarterback, only 12% know the difference between a load and no-load mutual fund. .[I]n one recent survey, most mutual fund investors thought that the stock market -- over the next decade -- would gain an annual average of more than 20 percent.. Most troubling of all, 65 million American households will probably fail to realize one or more of their major life goals because they have not developed a basic financial plan." (Former SEC chief Arthur Levitt, in a 1999 speech)

The solutions
So now you've seen the bad news. And it's pretty bad, indeed. Fortunately, there is good news. Financial literacy initiatives are in motion across the nation, targeting adults and young people alike. There's much to be hopeful about.

We at the Fool have some solutions for you, too. I realize that the following list may seem self-promotional, but I also really do think that you might benefit greatly from some of our offerings. So please consider checking out some of our products and services -- many of the resources below, of course, are free:

  • Master many financial topics with our How-to Guides and Online Seminars. Topics include that all-important subject: planning for retirement.

  • Get your kids informed about money and investing by pointing them to Teens & Their Money or by giving them a copy of our book for young people, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of -- written by David and Tom Gardner, with me.

  • Want to dig out of credit card debt and/or keep your credit record clean? Come by our Credit Center. (We also have a Motley Fool Visa Credit Card, designed to serve Fools well.)

  • Learn where to park your savings in our Savings Center, which also offers some special rates we've negotiated for Fools.

  • Keep your portfolio stocked with worthy companies by getting investing ideas from our suite of Fool Stock Newsletters, which deliver stock recommendations monthly.

  • Make sure you've got a brokerage that serves you well by learning more about the brokerage biz in our Broker Center.

  • Look into a free trial of our TMF Money Advisor personal financial planning service, which features objective, personalized advice for you and your specific situation. This might be a critically important resource for you, as it offers a financial planning pro you can talk to on the phone and get advice from. Don't be one of those people who never realize their dreams because they never got around to planning for their future.

  • Give our Fool Community a whirl (free for 30 days). This is a vast and vibrant discussion board community, where you can interact with (or just lurk and learn from) thousands of fellow Fools who are discussing everything under the sun. You've got to experience it for yourself to really understand how amazing it is.

  • Keep educating yourself by reading our daily Commentaries, penned by our team of Fool writers.

Selena Maranjianis senior worrywart at The Motley Fool. She owns a few shares of Microsoft. For more about Selena, viewher bio andher profile.You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written:The Motley Fool Money GuideandThe Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens. The Motley Fool isFools writing for Fools.


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Selena Maranjian
TMFSelena

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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