Sometimes I just don't understand this crazy world. Take the folks at the Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council. I just read that they're lamenting a truly lamentable situation: "The [American] personal savings rate is near zero, most Americans are not saving adequately for retirement, and most lower-income households do not have adequate emergency savings for unexpected expenditures like a car repair."

This is not news to us in Fooldom. I've expressed my worry that so many Americans seem to be guaranteed a gruesome retirement. My colleague Bill Mann has lamented that debt has already done in so many people and companies.

So what do those consumer-centered organizations propose to do about it? They're promoting "America Saves Week"! (Feb. 22 to March 1, 2009.) Can you imagine? Here we have millions on the brink of retirement disasters, and they're suggesting that Americans save for tomorrow, for one week a year. Why not do so every week? Then you'll end up with 52 times as much wealth.

Check out these companies listed below. They sport solid long-term performances, but take a look how they did last week -- they haven't necessarily fared so well:


1-Week Performance, 2/6/09-2/13/09

20-Year Average Annual Gain

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)



Kroger (NYSE:KR)



ConAgra (NYSE:CAG)



Altria (NYSE:MO)



Clorox (NYSE:CLX)






Lowe's (NYSE:LOW)



Data: Yahoo! Finance.

Why would you want to take a chance on a single week, when it could be a bad week? Also, you lose the power of long-term growth. A 10% return over 20 years will result in a more-than-six-fold increase.

This just in!
Oops. OK, it seems I got it wrong. America Saves Week is meant to boost awareness of the issue for a week, not to suggest that we should  save for only one week per year. Fine. I admit it's a good idea.

Still ... there's a lesson here to learn about short-term investing. The past year, 2008, taught us that even focusing on a single year can have disastrous results. We need to invest for the long term. For many, many years. Great wealth is often built over decades -- just ask Warren Buffett.

For detailed guidance on how to plan your long-term saving and investing, test-drive our Rule Your Retirement newsletter service. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues, and recommendations of promising stocks and mutual funds, too.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. JPMorgan Chase is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.