For many people, saving for retirement feels like reading a never-ending story: You keep thinking you're getting close to your goals, but you're never quite there.
But some Americans aren't even that fortunate, meaning they are nowhere near their target range for comfortable living in retirement. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute, more than 33 percent of Americans older than 55 have yet to put away more than $10,000 for retirement.
"There's a great deal of information in the marketplace for people who are in their 30s and 40s and people who have already retired," Emily Berken, author of The Last Five Years Before You Retire, told Yahoo! Finance. "But there's not a lot for that segment of people who are facing retirement but aren't quite there yet."
Don't misfire with your 401(k)
If you are gearing up to start a 401(k) plan with your employer, the first thing you need to do is explore all of your investment options. One in three Americans participating in a 401(k) or similar plan are unacquainted with all of their options, according to a survey MarketWatch.
"Particularly, when it comes to things like finances, to me it's like weight loss. The first step is get on a scale and figure out where you are," Birken said. "Look at all the financial statements [that] have been coming in and you've been ignoring, and figure out how much money you have and how much you'll need."
And the more you know about your investment options, the more likely the money you stow away will grow into something meaningful. MarketWatch reported people who are familiar with their investment options are nearly twice as likely to save 10 to 15 percent of annual income for retirement.
"To get there, it's critically important for people to understand all of the investment options in their retirement plan, and how those options will translate to income in their retirement," Teresa Hassara, executive vice president of TIAA-CREF's institutional business, said in a release.It's never too late to start saving
If you feel like you've arrived too late to the party and that no matter what you do, you won't have enough money to save for retirement, think again. It's never too late to save for retirement, but it's important to be as smart and realistic about it as you can.
Roger Roemmich, chief investment officer for ROKA Wealth Strategists, told Yahoo! Finance that many recent retirees just aren't responsible enough with their cash.
"You'd be amazed how many people punch out for the last time at work and waltz home with credit card debts, boat payments, two car payments, timeshare obligations and a hefty mortgage," Roemmich said.
He also noted that the government will take up to 15 percent of someone's Social Security income to recoup past taxes and any student loan debt owed. The number of people saving money
The Employee Benefits Research Institute reported that most Americans tend to amp up their saving habits as they age. Young adults throughout the nation are the worst at saving, according to the institute's report. Just more than half, 56 percent, of Americans between 25 and 34 saved for retirement in 2013, down 9 percent from 2003.
Workers between the ages of 35 to 44 had the biggest 10-year decline in saving for retirement. Just 63 percent actively saved in 2013 compared to 77 percent in 2003. There was only a 1 percent drop in saving for retirement from 2003 to 2013 for people between the ages of 45 and 54, as 71 percent of that age range actively saved for retirement last year.
The 55-plus age group did the best job bucking the savings trend in 2013. While the number of people in other ages brackets actively saving for retirement dropped from 2003 to 2013, the 55-plus group surged 5 percent, going from 69 percent in 2003 to 74 percent last year.
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