We love scores, don't we? They offer easy ways to see where we stand. Who wants to study a detailed credit report when you can just check out the bottom line -- the credit score? Our parents interpret how we're doing in school by looking at our report cards. Even newborn babies get their health rated via an Apgar score.
So it shouldn't surprise Fools to find scores summarizing America's preparedness for retirement. One example is A.G. Edwards' "Nest Egg Score." The company just released its fifth set of quarterly results, and they offer some hope in an otherwise grim arena, where four out of 10 boomers have less than $10,000 in retirement savings.
In a nutshell
The Nest Egg Score considers a dozen factors from government and private survey data, and yields a number on the following scale:
750 to 850: Excellent
650 to 749: Good
550 to 649: Fair
450 to 549: Poor
Wondering what the latest score is? Enough suspense: The number for March 2007 is 645, up eight points from the December reading. (I'll save you some wear and tear on your calculator -- that's a 1.3% rise.)
The bad news
Unfortunately, this isn't as positive a development as it may appear. The folks at A.G. Edwards note that much of the increase is tied to continuing low unemployment, a decline in the cost of living, and moderate inflation. Here are some worrisome details they shared:
- Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults have done nothing(!) within the past year to build their personal savings. This is despite two-thirds of respondents feeling that their personal choices and actions are more influential in regard to their nest egg than the economy.
- Those with the most wealth were more likely to have taken action, while those in more precarious financial conditions were more likely to have done nothing. Some 70% of those with household incomes of $75,000 or more took some action in the past year. The report says that they were more likely to have opened new accounts, met with a financial advisor, or chosen not to make a major discretionary purchase than those earning less than $35,000 a year (those folks came in at 51%).
- Just 57% of all adults reported having any type of personal savings. In other words, 43% have no personal savings!
The steps we can take
Fortunately, it's rather easy to make an immediate improvement in your financial future. Here are just a few things you might do:
- Start planning for your retirement. Try to determine how much you'll need, how much you have saved now, how you might best invest it, how quickly it might reasonably grow, and how you can minimize your taxes.
- Take that tax refund and save or invest it, instead of spending it.
- Begin participating in your employment plans at work -- or increase your participation level.
- Find a few ways to cut your spending in order to beef up your saving.
- Open and fund an IRA. (Learn all about why IRAs are so useful in our IRA Center.)
- Find out what your personal nest egg score is, at nesteggscore.com.
Investing for retirement
Here's one retirement planning tool that might save you time and trouble: the target-dated mutual fund. You can read all about these funds in this month's issue of Rule Your Retirement, our retirement-planning newsletter. Each of these is designed around a specific retirement date, with its investments chosen accordingly. The Vanguard 2025 (VTTVX) fund, for example, is for those who plan to retire in 2025. It recently had 79% of its assets in stocks and 21% in bonds, whereas its Vanguard 2045 (VTIVX) counterpart had 90% in stocks and 10% in bonds. The fund takes care of shifting your assets as you get older, adding more bonds in later years.
Target-date funds tend to invest in a handful of other funds from the family's lineup. The Vanguard 2025 fund, for example, recently had 61% of its assets in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX) and 9% in Vanguard European Stock Index (VEURX) -- giving you both domestic and foreign equity exposure. While the former has shareholders invested in the likes of everything from Wal-Mart
We want to help
Let us help you with your retirement planning, via Rule Your Retirement. It's prepared by Robert Brokamp, a smart and witty guy who distills what you really need to know into a manageable chunk each month. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, allowing you to gain valuable tips and even read how some folks have retired early and well.
The following articles may also be of interest:
Here's to a happy retirement -- and don't drop that nest egg!
Dell is an Inside Value and Stock Advisor recommendation. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value selection.
Longtime contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Wal-Mart. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.