Saving early and often is the way Americans typically fund their retirement, the biggest financial obligation most will face. Pensions for many have become a thing of the past. Retirement needs vary greatly, but the numbers are universally huge. A 65-year-old retiree would need to have $1.1 million saved to draw $50,000 a year in inflation-adjusted dollars, assuming 3% inflation and a 5% annual return from investments. That's if the investor is lucky enough to get a 5% return, which, given the flat-line returns of stocks the last decade, might give some pause.
Meanwhile, data show that many workers nearing retirement age have saved nowhere near the amount they need, and many have very little savings. More than half of all workers, 56%, say they have less than $25,000 in savings, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
Coming up with a financial plan, at least, allows people to set realistic expectations for what they need to do.