Here's some scary news for you: You probably won't be retiring when you expect to retire. But while you might think that means you'll end up working longer than you now hope, a recent survey shows that the opposite may be true -- and may leave you completely unprepared financially.

Check out these numbers from the Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2009 Retirement Confidence Survey, showing the retirement ages planned by those currently working, along with when current retirees actually did retire:

Ages

Planned (Workers)

Actual (Retirees)

Before 55

3%

18%

55-59

6%

17%

60-64

17%

37%

65

23%

12%

66-69

10%

5%

70 or older

21%

5%

Never retire/never worked

10%

6%

Don't know

6%

2%

I was struck that for each age, the difference between planned and actual was significant. Many people end up retiring sooner than they expected, and the reasons aren't always good -- they may lose their jobs or suffer a disability, or their employers may offer early retirement packages that prove insufficient for their future needs.

Here's another surprise from the survey: Many more people expect to work in retirement, generating some extra income, than actually manage to do so now:

Year

Planned (Workers)

Actual (Retirees)

2009

72%

34%

2008

63%

25%

2007

66%

37%

2006

67%

27%

2005

66%

26%

2004

68%

32%

1999

66%

27%

So what?
This is a useful wake-up call for us that can help us not kill our retirement. If we don't have a sound retirement investing plan under way, we'd better get on the ball. Try our Rule Your Retirement newsletter (for free) and you'll be able to access all past issues and gather lots of practical advice.

For example, it recommends using an asset allocation strategy that includes a number of different types of investments. Instead of just focusing on large-cap stocks like PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP), Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL), and UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), consider spicing up your portfolio with these other asset classes:

  • Small-cap stocks like Huntsman (NYSE:HUN) or Titanium Metals (NYSE:TIE) may stand to perform better coming out of the recession.
  • Emerging-market stocks like Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE:PBR) and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) have been on a tear lately.
  • Don't forget bonds and REITs, especially for more conservative investors.

Where can you put these investments? If you're not participating in your employer's 401(k) plan, you should look into doing so. And make the most of IRAs, too. Remember that a Roth IRA is designed to let you withdraw your money tax free in retirement. The earlier you sock money away, the longer it has to grow for you. A $10,000 investment will grow to $108,000 in 25 years, or $119,000 in 26 years -- that extra year gets you about $11,000 more!

As much as you plan, you can't anticipate everything that could happen. Start saving now, and you'll be in a better position to deal with whatever comes your way.

Learn more:

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of PepsiCo. Baidu is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Titanium Metals and UnitedHealth Group are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. UnitedHealth Group is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Petroleo Brasileiro and PepsiCo are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth Group. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.