Gee, talk about a downer. The folks at the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) have reported the results of a recent survey they conducted. They asked employers how many white-collar and rank-and-file employees currently in their 50s will not have the resources needed to retire at the same age as similar workers have in the past.At the median, employers responded that half will not have the necessary resources.


What's going on
There are several explanations behind the CRR's findings. Basically, we baby boomers face a different kind of retirement than previous generations. Far fewer of us have traditional pensions. Examples of companies that have frozen pensions or have reduced or eliminated them for new employees include IBM (NYSE:IBM), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and Hershey (NYSE:HSY).

Instead of traditional pensions, most of us now have 401(k) plans at our jobs. But in general, we're not making sufficient use of them. According to the CRR, "Median 401(k) assets, including IRAs, for workers in their 50s are just $60,000."

Think about that. If you have $60,000 socked away at age 50 and it grows by the market average of 10% annually until you hit 65, it will grow to about $250,000. You might make some additional contributions along the way, but even so, that's not so much to live off of in your golden years -- particularly considering that you're only supposed to withdraw 4% per year from your savings in order to make them last. At that rate, your retirement savings are kicking out just $10,000 per year to you. Not good.

There's Social Security, of course, but the age of retirement there keeps getting pushed back. Someone my age, for example, born in "1960 or later," has a "full retirement age" of 67. (Can you imagine lawmakers pushing that age up a little further one day? I certainly can.)

If you think your odds of being able to retire comfortably are low, there are some steps you can take to improve your future well being.

One is to plan on working a little longer than you originally expected to, if possible. Delaying your Social Security benefits for a few years will increase their amount considerably. A few more years working also means you can plow a lot more money into your retirement accounts, before you stop working. And here's one last benefit you might not have thought of: The longer you work, the fewer years you'll have to support yourself without a job. Retire at age 60, and you might have 30 years of retirement to support; retire at age 70, and you may have just 20 such years.

Some companies that the AARP has highlighted as being great for older workers include First Horizon National (NYSE:FHN) and Deere (NYSE:DE).

Another "must" is to invest as effectively as possible. Many people get confused when gazing at the options in their 401(k) plan, or when pondering how to allocate money in their regular brokerage account. Some choose very conservative funds offered by the 401(k) even when they're young. That may seem sensible, but you may not only be foregoing gains, but also losing your money's purchasing power to inflation.

And if you don't feel like you can find long-haul winners such as Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), which has gained an annual compound average of 24% over the past 20 years, or Walgreen (NYSE:WAG), which has gained 18%, then just stash some of your savings in a stock market index fund.

Finally, learn more. The more you know, the more effectively you can invest, the less money you'll likely fork over to Uncle Sam, and the sweeter your golden years will probably be.

On this front, consider checking out our Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement service. You can try it for free for 30 days without any obligation to subscribe. Just click here for more information.

And here's to being able to retire -- we all deserve that much!

Selena Maranjian owns shares of no company mentioned in this article. Best Buy is a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.