Let's make sure I got this right:

  • 401(k) dwindling fast? Check!
  • Mortgage rates rising and option ARM about to reset? Check!
  • Savings accounts are on deposit with banks barely holding on by their fingertips? Check!

Hmmm. That filly in the third at Aqueduct seems to have closed pretty fast in her last race -- maybe taking what's left of my retirement savings and betting it all on her to win isn't such a bad idea after all.

Check that thought
Yes, the scariest trick this Halloween season may be opening your retirement account statement or bank book, but those folks who declared this National Save for Retirement Week haven't completely lost their minds. This may be one of those rare moments in market history where we have the opportunity to create fabulous wealth to secure our retirement years.

Yet few answer the call. Research shows that nearly half of all workers in the country have less than $25,000 in total savings, and more than 20% have no savings whatsoever. Despite the gloom that permeates the newspapers, we might want to consider how fortunate we are to see the market go on sale right when we need to add money the most!

Cozy as an old sweater
These ideas may be as familiar to you as your Labrador retriever. But considering that outside of employer-sponsored plans, many people save virtually nothing, our loyalty to these concepts should not waver.

Stocks remain the best way to save for retirement, and there's no better time to begin than when they go on sale -- like they are today. If you don't have the fortitude to invest in individual stocks, choose mutual funds that do.

There are a number of high-quality, low-cost managed funds that have done well. Sequoia (SEQUX) follows the tradition of buying excellent businesses at good prices that its founder William Ruane learned alongside Warren Buffett while studying under Benjamin Graham. Investing in companies like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Walgreen (NYSE:WAG), and Target (NYSE:TGT), Sequoia has more than doubled the 3% annual return of the S&P 500.

On the other hand, if you want to choose your own stocks, do so carefully so you can reap the rewards at retirement. Choosing consistent dividend payers like Clorox (NYSE:CLX) is one way to reap the rewards of patience. Over the past 15 years, the household bleach maker has seen its share price grow at a compounded annual rate of 13%, while Tootsie Roll has achieved nearly 9% returns over the past 20 years.

Here are a few other Steady Eddie performers that offer better odds of securing your financial future than that filly at the track.

Stock

Div. Yield Today

5-Year Div. Growth CAGR

Mattel (NYSE:MAT)

5.2%

34.9%

Wal-Mart

1.8%

20.7%

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)

2.6%

11.8%

Lockheed Martin

2.5%

23.8%

Deere (NYSE:DE)

2.8%

17.2%

The smart bet
Just as mutual funds may be a perfect substitute for buying stocks when you don't have the time or knowledge to research them on your own, a subscription to Rule Your Retirement may be the perfect substitute for hiring a financial advisor who may have conflicts of interest. You want to make sure your advisor isn't trying to sell you something that will fund his or her own retirement before ensuring your success.

Steps you should take right now include making sure you're contributing at least as much to your 401(k) as necessary to earn any matching contributions from your employer. It's free money. Then take the next step and invest some money in an index fund. With the S&P 500 down 35% year to date, you'll be buying many more shares of the market when it's supercheap. After that, you can begin your search for mutual finds like Sequoia to invest in, or individual stocks like the dividend payers above, which will pay you to wait for share prices to bounce back.

A week to remember
There are many stocks we can choose to retire on, and during a week devoted to reminding us of the importance of saving for our retirement, deciding which path offers us the right opportunity is key. You can test-drive the Rule Your Retirement service with a 30-day risk-free trial run that gives you full access to the wealth of knowledge that the analysts there share every month.

Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Wal-Mart but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.