When it comes to retirement savings, Americans are not doing a great job. This is especially true for the Baby Boomer generation -- a group that is starting to reach retirement age now, and will continue to do so for the next 15 years or so. Here are the alarming statistics about Baby Boomers' retirement readiness -- and what you can do to get yourself ready.

The statistics are alarming

In a nutshell, Baby Boomers as a group are not ready for retirement. To illustrate this, consider these 10 statistics from an Insured Retirement Institute (IRI) survey.

A middle-aged man looking concerned at his desk.

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  • Only 24% of Baby Boomers are confident they will have enough savings to last throughout retirement, down from 36% in 2012.
  • Of the Baby Boomers who lack confidence, 68% said they would have saved more, and 67% said they would have started earlier, when asked what they would have done differently.
  • Just 39% of Baby Boomers have tried to figure out their retirement savings need.
  • Only 55% of Baby Boomers have any money saved for retirement. In fairness, however, one in four Baby Boomers expects significant income from an employer-provided pension.
  • 59% of Baby Boomers cite Social Security as a major source of their retirement income.
  • 65% of Baby Boomers are worried about future changes to Social Security.
  • Only 43% of Baby Boomers are satisfied with how their lives are going from an economic perspective.
  • 26% of Baby Boomers don't plan to retire until age 70 or later.
  • Only 22% of Baby Boomers believe they are doing a good job of preparing financially for retirement.
  • Only 27% of Baby Boomers believe they will have enough money for healthcare expenses.

Why aren't Baby Boomers confident about retirement?

It's not surprising that many baby boomers feel this way. According to data from Vanguard, the average American in the 55 to 64 age group has a 401(k) balance of $177,805.

This may sound like a lot of money, but keep in mind that it needs to last throughout retirement, which could be several decades. In fact, the often-used "4% rule" of retirement says that a retiree with this 401(k) balance can only expect to withdraw about $7,100 per year from their account without worrying about running out of money. Even when combined with Social Security, this isn't likely to be enough for most people.

Even worse, the median 401(k) balance is just $71,579 for this age group, meaning that half of 401(k) participants have less than this amount. I'll spare you the mathematical discussion, but this implies that there is a small group of people with a lot of money saved, and a lot of people with a small amount of money saved. Also, keep in mind that this only includes 401(k) participants -- the study found that only 55% of Boomers have anything saved for retirement at all.

How much do you really need to retire comfortably?

There's no one-size-fits-all way to calculate your income need in retirement, but here's one good way to get an estimate:

In general, experts suggest that you'll need 80% of your pre-retirement income to sustain your quality of life after you retire. For example, if you earn $100,000 per year, you'll need roughly $80,000 per year after you retire. So, step one is determining how much income you'll need to live comfortably.

Next, figure out how much will come from other sources, such as Social Security and any pensions you may have. You can get a solid estimate of your expected Social Security income by creating an account at www.ssa.gov and viewing your latest Social Security statement. Most pension plans include a retirement income estimate with your statement as well.

Subtracting your other income sources from your income need tells you how much will need to come from savings. Continuing my previous example, if I need $80,000 in annual income after retirement, and my wife and I expect a total of $40,000 per year between Social Security and pensions, we'll need another $40,000 in income from investments.

Using the 4% rule I mentioned earlier (which admittedly is not perfect), multiply your income need by 25 to come up with your savings target. In my example, $40,000 times 25 gives me a savings goal of $1,000,000.

What to do if you've fallen behind

If you're not on track to retire with enough savings, the good news is that you can still do some damage control.

If you have a 401(k) or other retirement plan at work, consider increasing your contributions. For the 2017 tax year, you can choose to defer $18,000 of your salary ($24,000 if you're over 50 years old) into your 401(k), so chances are you could be saving more.

If you don't have an employer's plan, you can contribute $5,500 to an IRA this year ($6,500 if you're over 50 years old), which you can then invest in virtually any stocks, bonds, or mutual funds you want. If you max out your IRA every year starting at age 50, and your portfolio produces a conservative 6% rate of return, you could build up a $150,000 account value by the time you're 65 -- not quite a million-dollar nest egg, but certainly enough to make a big difference.

The bottom line is that if you need to catch up, there are ways to do it, and your money will never have as much growth power as is does right now.

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