You Are Doing an Overall Lousy Job of Saving for Retirement

NEW YORK (TheStreet) – Could some of you at least pretend you care about saving for retirement? The alternative would be just too depressing to consider, if it wasn't already so frightening.

According to a recent study by financial services firm Edward Jones, almost half (45%) of non-retired Americans are not saving for retirement. Of those who are not yet saving, only 36% percent plan to and almost 10% say they never plan on saving for retirement. Meanwhile, the folks at Voya Financial found that 74% of Americans have never calculated their monthly retirement income needs.

That isn't exactly great news when, according to Voya, six out of 10 retirees say their retirement was somewhat or very unexpected. It's even worse when 51% of retirees have never tried to determine if their current savings will be enough to last through retirement. While 39% assume what they have will not last 20 years, 13% of current retirees flat-out don’t know how much savings they have in the bank.

"When it comes to retirement savings, there’s a big difference between planning to save and actually doing so," said Scott Thoma, principal and investment strategist for Edward Jones. "While intentions to save for retirement are legitimate, individuals tend to satisfy more immediate, short-term spending goals and push off their long-term saving goals.”

So what does that procrastination mean for your retirement plans, you ask? Well, a survey by Franklin Templeton Investments found that 55% percent of Americans are considering working during their retirement, and not simply out of necessity, while 30% of those ages 18 to 24 plan never to retire. The majority, 61% of survey respondents, said that if they didn't have the money to retire they'd put off retirement until they did. A full 74% of those between 18 and 24 would just keep working.

Overall, 28% of adults think a job will be their primary source of income during retirement.

“Conventional thinking and attitudes about what it means to retire are changing,” says Michael Doshier, vice president of retirement marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments. “By taking action now — via saving and planning for retirement — individuals can help ensure that they're able to embrace this next phase of life. They can also reduce the stress increasingly associated with not having enough money to retire.”

That stress can be considerable. According to Franklin Templeton, 67% percent of Americans experience some level of retirement stress. Within 15 years of retirement, that percentage peaks at 76% of all workers. They're stressed primarily about running out of money (27%) and health and medical issues (27%), with older workers concerned more with the latter than the former.

Much of that stress is unnecessary, though, considering that most workers know exactly how to reduce their retirement fears. Voya Financial's survey found that only 17% of workers and 26% of retirees had a written financial plan and only 31% of workers and 35% of retirees had a comprehensive budget. Yet when asked if calculating the exact amount of future monthly income and their savings would help put them at ease, 83% of workers and 76% of retirees said yes.

“We know this disconnect between what people say could help improve their financial security and what they actually do is caused by a number of factors, including inertia, anxiety, competing financial priorities and the fact that many view retirement as a distant concern,” says James Nichols, head of retirement income and advice strategy for Voya Financial.

Basically, they need to get moving. Edward Jones found that 90% of its study's youngest respondents plan to or began saving in their 30s or earlier. But when looking at respondents ages 35 to 44, 64% percent actually began saving in their 30s or earlier. And just 22% percent of overall respondents indicated that they plan to or actually began saving between the ages of 40 and 50.

Don't think kids will motivate you to start socking cash away, either. Only 39% percent of respondents in single-person households indicated that they are not saving, compared with 51% percent of those with a household of three or more. Similarly, 58% percent of those with no children have already started saving, while 49% any children indicated the same.

"Parents are recognizing the need to save earlier in order to account for additional costs, like education," says Edward Jones' Thoma. "We cannot emphasize enough the importance of saving for retirement early and often – it leads to higher future income in retirement, with less stress and uncertainty while working to achieve those goals.”

— Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

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