Survey results released yesterday reveal that U.S. workers are suffering savings hubris.
According to Trust & Consequences: Closing the Retirement Awareness Gap, many people have a false sense of how well they're actually doing in preparing for retirement. Nearly half of those surveyed say they are contributing the maximum to their 401(k)s. Yet data compiled by the U.S. Government and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) show that only 11% of American workers, in fact, contribute the maximum.
Plus, the average worker contributes only about half of what their employer plans allow -- just 6.8% of their pre-tax salary, compared to the 15% rate most plans permit.
The study, commissioned by CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services, surveyed more than 750 employees across the United States, all of whom participate in a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan.
Not surprisingly, fear of war, general apathy, and confusion about plan options play a role in stopping workers from socking money away for the future. And 39% feel they are "underwater," stating they can barely keep up with bills and don't believe they can afford to contribute more.
If you're apathetic about saving, perhaps some cold, hard numbers will change your mind. A 401(k) plan of $50,000 (that's the national average) amounts to roughly $2,500 a year during retirement. Hardly enough to spend your golden years ingesting champagne and caviar.
Here are a few tips on improving your lot in retired life:
Education: Run the numbers -- your numbers -- and see how you're doing. Use our retirement calculators, or check out the Plan the Perfect Retirement How-To Guide. (TMF Money Advisor members can use the DirectAdvice online financial planning tool.)
Evaluation: How does your employer's retirement-savings plan measure up? If you can spare a minute, here's a 60-second guide to maximizing your 401(k).
Incentive: How's this for motivation? A lot of employers offer free money to those who contribute to their work retirement plan. Take advantage of the free dough.
Ideas: Think you can't squeeze another dime from your budget? Consider where your wallet is leaking on a daily basis. And forgive the shameless plug, but The Motley Fool Personal Finance Workbook can help get all your money matters on track.
Patience: War and a weak economy are frightening right now. But remember, the market goes up and down -- sometimes violently one way or the other -- during the short term. But it has a way of righting itself over the long term. So be patient, grasshopper.
Now, go ask your HR department for the paperwork to up your 401(k) contribution.