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Why aren't Americans saving more for retirement?

November 09, 2010

By Barbara Marquand | Money Rates Columnist

Although a vast majority of Americans realize how important it is to save for retirement, a sizable portion don't follow through with action.

More than a third of Americans, 39 percent, are not saving for retirement at all, according to a survey released in October by TIAA-CREF, a national financial services organization. The online survey, conducted for TIAA-CREF by StrategyOne, polled a random sample of 2,000 adults ages 21 to 65 between Oct. 1 and 3.

Clearly they know they should save; 93 percent of Americans say they know saving is a must for financial security, and 77 percent want to save more for retirement next year. So why are so many falling short?

Part of the problem may be a lack of guidance. Most of the survey respondents, 78 percent, rely on themselves to make household financial decisions, but more than half, 55 percent, admit they don't know much about finance, and 82 percent admit they don't know what it takes to save.

More savings needed to eliminate retirement deficits

Eighty-five percent of people, meanwhile, admit spending money that they should save instead of depositing into a financial account, such as a money market account, savings account, CD or investment account.

Not surprisingly most of those surveyed, 65 percent, say the won't be able to retire in the manner they hoped.

Other research gives credence to those fears. A recent analysis by the Employee Benefit Research Institute finds that the average retirement savings shortfall is $48,000 per person. When nursing home and home health care costs are considered, the shortfall in some cases doubles. And if Social Security retirement benefits were eliminated, the average individual shortfall would be about $89,000, not counting nursing home or home health costs, according to the institute's analysis. The shortfall estimates are in 2010 dollars and represent the additional amount people at age 65 would need to eliminate expected deficits in retirement.

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