Great whopping gobs of Americans have not only not been saving and investing for retirement -- they haven't even thought about it. Get a load of these statistics:

  • According to a recent study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the percentage of workers participating in an employment-based retirement plan decreased last year, falling to 40.4% from 41.5% in 2007.
  • Per a study commissioned by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, 33% of those age 60 and younger say they're not saving for long-term needs like retirement. Only 49% of Americans have set aside three months' of expenses for an emergency, and 58% of the not-yet-retired have never tried to estimate how much money they'll need in retirement. Even among those 45 to 59, who are close to retirement, 49% have still not done so.

What are they thinking?
The survey-takers explain that factors such as recent stock market returns and labor conditions affect retirement plan participation. I get that if you lose your job, you won't be chipping in much toward your 401(k). But if the market plunges, as it did in 2008, that should be all the more reason to invest -- or even hike your contribution levels -- to take advantage of the recovery.

Furthermore, if these folks aren't investing for their golden years, just how are they expecting to retire? Social Security likely won't provide all they need, and few of us have pensions any more.

Is it too late for you?
If you or any of your loved ones are among these procrastinators or avoiders, it's time to take action to salvage your retirement. Mutual funds make it easy to start saving for retirement, even with relatively small amounts. For starters, take a look at these outperforming funds:

Fund

Expense Ratio

10-Year Annual Return

Selected Holdings

Manning & Napier Equity (EXEYX)

1.05%

5.4%

Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), Hess (NYSE:HES), Kellogg (NYSE:K)

Royce Pennsylvania Mutual (PENNX)

0.89%

9.9%

Tiffany (NYSE:TIF), Buckle (NYSE:BKE)

Meridian Growth (MERDX)

0.86%

9.4%

Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT), Copart (NASDAQ:CPRT)

Source: Morningstar, as of Dec. 29.

For most of us, it's not too late to start saving for retirement. Uncover your eyes, take your fingers out of your ears, and hop to it!

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Copart is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.