When it comes to money, what makes you get out of bed in the morning?

For some, it's the call of stock quotes -- racing to the computer to see how their portfolio fared since bedtime. Others would rather hit the snooze button 12 times than face a less-than-impressive brokerage account balance.

But a good night's sleep has less to do with your actual net worth and more to do with the length of time you've spent building it.

Sure, it's true that the bigger your nest egg, the better off you'll be. But studies show that preparedness contributes more to peace of mind than net worth does. Those who start socking it away early are most likely to report that they are happy with their retirement savings status, according to a survey sponsored by AIG Sun America.

What constitutes "early"? It seems that 24 years of preparation is the defining number that separates those who are content with their retirement savings status from those who are not. The least-happy retirees, according to the study, had been saving an average of 11 years. So starting your savings regimen before age 40 can do wonders for your senior-citizen psyche.

We'll venture a guess that establishing a pattern of saving -- instead of scrambling to do so at the last minute -- helps put money in perspective. Those who have fashioned a nest egg during good times and bad know that a market downturn doesn't mean the end of the world for their retirement dreams.

But when retirement is a distant goal, how do you motivate yourself to start a savings habit?

  • If a stern lecture will motivate you, let us play "bad cop" and present some brutal facts about the state of the average American's retirement savings.
  • Just plain lazy? Here are six rules for lazy investors, and even more interesting, six stocks (like Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Reebok (NYSE:RBK)) that exemplify this investing approach.

Who has time to roll their nickels and cut coupons? Dayana Yochim is a champion of the Lazy Girl's Guide to Budgeting. She owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Here's a shortcut to the Fool's disclosure policy.