A lot of people are stressed out about their financial situation. I often explain to these folks that while they may gaze with envy upon their seemingly successful neighbors, their neighbors may well be even worse off than they are. Massive debt isn't that visible, after all, unless a repo man is towing away a car.

It turns out that a similar dynamic is in effect around the globe. While we Americans worry about our retirements, our counterparts in other nations are often doing the same.

The home front
The folks at AARP recently surveyed Americans and came up with some notable numbers:

  • Just 27% of workers and 50% of retirees feel very confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years.

  • Worse, 15% of workers and 9% of retirees are not even confident they will have enough for basic expenses.

  • On a more specific note, 28% of workers and 12% of retirees are not confident about having enough money in retirement to pay for their medical expenses.

  • And 40% of workers and 33% of retirees are not confident in their ability to take care of long-term-care expenses that may occur during their retirement.

It's a scary picture, eh? Well, grab your passport and de-plane with me now, as we look elsewhere.

Around the globe
An international retirement survey conducted by Hartford Financial found the following:

  • Seven in 10 people age 45 and older in both the United States and the United Kingdom say they have at least some concerns about having enough money in retirement.

  • In both locations, one in three report being extremely or very concerned.

  • Those concerns are magnified in Japan, where 91% say they have at least some concerns about a lack of cash in retirement. Six in 10 there say they are extremely or very concerned.

What's up in Japan? Well, it seems that the country has a lower worker-to-retiree ratio, which is heading toward 1-to-1. That kind of future is worrisome, to say the least. Yet we're not exempt, either. With rising life expectancies, the U.S. may also end up at 1-to-1, though it will likely take us longer to get there.

In Investment Advisor magazine, Melanie Waddell cited another interesting angle from Liz Zlatkus, president of international wealth management at The Hartford: "'While the savings rate in Japan is very high compared to the U.S. and Europe . [the] Japanese aren't necessarily saving in the right manner.' The Japanese have $6 trillion in cash 'that can earn better returns if they invest it in the stock market.'"

What to do
Fortunately, you don't have to be one of the worriers. Many of the worriers, after all, are not taking many steps to insure a comfy retirement. You can. Take advantage of 401(k) plans that your workplace offers. Contribute to IRAs (and learn more about them in our IRA Center). Take the time to run some calculations to determine how much money you'll need in retirement, as well as how you can accumulate what you need.

Invest effectively, too. If your moola is all in CDs earning, on average, slightly less than 5%, remember that inflation tends to average about 3% to 4% per year. That will wipe out most of your CD gains. You might want to invest in stocks, perhaps via a broad-market index fund. An S&P 500 index fund, for example, will instantly have you invested in 500 big American companies, including Marriott (NYSE:MAR), Motorola (NYSE:MOT), and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY).

We'd love to help you get your retirement on track. The retirement guidance source that I refer to most often is Robert Brokamp's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. Try it out free for a whole month, and you'll get to peek at all of the past issues, which feature a host of "Success Stories" that profile people who retired early and share their strategies. Robert has also touched on how to withdraw money prudently in retirement, how to "avoid Uncle Sam's grabby hands" by using tax-efficient investment vehicles, and many more topics that can help prepare you for your golden years.

Here's to a happier portfolio! And hey -- consider forwarding this article to anyone whose financial future you care about. Just click on the "Email This Page" link near the top of the page.

For related retirement reading:

Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian doesn't own shares of companies mentioned in this story. For more about Selena, view her bio and her 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 is Fools writing for Fools.