Not only did I miss a friend's birthday last month, I also missed National Nurses Week.

Nurses deserve a week honoring them -- after all, can you think of many more noble professions? I certainly can't. And here's another reason to salute nurses: They're rather smart about retirement.

You may know that there's a general shortage of nurses across America, and that this is leading to decent wages for those in the profession and often a considerable amount of overtime, too. But there's more! According to our friends at Fidelity Investments:

  • Some 95% of nurses surveyed have access to a retirement plan (such as a 401(k)) at work and 90% of them participate in it. In the general working population, only about 75% of workers participate. Nurses, on average, contribute about 9% of their salary to these accounts, a relatively hefty percentage compared to the average American worker's 7%.
  • Nurses have an average balance of $64,000 in their employer-based retirement plans. Compare this with the general population, where 53% of all workers have less than $25,000 socked away for retirement, and 65% have less than $50,000. Some 44% of nurses adjust their asset allocation annually or more frequently. That's quite impressive.
  • More than half of nurses surveyed are using extra income from extra shifts to pay down their debt.

Why are nurses so on top of things? Well, one possible explanation might be that they're frequently reminded of the rising cost of health care. Some 90% of them are reportedly worrying about how they will tend to their own health in retirement, and saving accordingly.

Be a nurse
So what should you do with this information? Well, try to act like a nurse! This might be effective when you're about to put a large-screen television that you can barely afford on your credit card, or when you're about to spend $4 on a fancy beverage.

The good news is that you can build a comfortable retirement for yourself, even as a non-nurse. We'd love to help you with that. I encourage you to take advantage of a free 30-day trial of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. It's prepared by Robert Brokamp, a smart and witty guy who distills what you really need to know into a manageable volume each month. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, allowing you to gather valuable tips and read how some folks have retired early and well.

Robert regularly offers recommendations of promising stocks and mutual funds, too. One fund he recommended back in April sports a five-year average annual return of more than 21%, and recently counted Nokia (NYSE:NOK), News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK), and Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) among its top holdings. (Yes, it's an international fund.)

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. She has recently heard that it's physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky -- and she thinks that's sad. GlaxoSmithKline is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation, and Vodafone is an Inside Value pick. Try any one of our investing services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.