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Cramer on Retirement: Catching Up

(Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of columns on retirement by Jim Cramer, founder of TheStreet , and Wally Konrad, former senior editor for Smart Money magazine. To read the first installment, click here. The second article is here, the third here and the fourth here.)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- About 44% of Americans ages 38 to 65 haven't saved enough for retirement, according to the most recent survey from the Employment Benefits Research Institute.

Numbers aside, most people feel they could be and should be saving more. Even diligent savers may feel behind when they open recent account statements. The roller-coaster ride in the market in the past months has meant plenty of red ink for lots of employees.

And if you're someone who started saving late or had to ransack your retirement accounts because of unemployment or foreclosure concerns, catching up is top priority right now.

So how do you make up for losses and lost time?

Save more and spend less.

I know that sounds obvious and even slightly obnoxious, but bear with me. There are lots of sophisticated strategies that can help you do both of those things and feel more confident about your nest egg. Consider the following:

Don't Throw Your Money Away on Fees

This is a painless way to give your retirement accounts a boost. The average American household pays nearly $155,000 in 401(k) fees over the course of a lifetime, according to a recent report from Demos, a nonpartisan public policy group. Wouldn't you rather have that money in your account?

The mutual fund industry disputes these numbers, saying the amount paid in fees is actually much lower. Whoever is right, the fact remains that most investors are a bit clueless about fees. A recent survey from AARP revealed that 62% of 401(k) investors didn't know how much they were paying in fees, and 71% didn't know they were paying any fees at all!

That may change now that new disclosure regulations from the Department of Labor went into effect July 1. The new rules require financial companies to disclose fees and administrative costs to employers. In turn, employers are required to pass that information on to workers no later than August 30. (Disclosures must be made once a year after that date.)

With more transparency, the thinking goes, employers, especially small firms, will be able to compare costs of competing plans more easily and employees will get a better sense of exactly what they are paying in fees.

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