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Retirement Crash Course

The No. 1 reason why people save money in a 401(k) plan or an Individual Retirement Account is to prepare for life after work.

But it now appears that many Americans' retirement plans are headed on a crash course, and some folks are now beginning to ask, "What retirement?"

Here are a number of recent statistics that indicate people of all ages are in danger of never being able to enjoy a peaceful, secure retirement. Consider:

* 50% of workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement (Source: Employee Benefits Research Institute).

* 27% of all workers are not confident they will have enough money for retirement-the highest level in the 21 years the Retirement Confidence Survey has been conducted (Source: EBRI).

* 33% of Boomers are worried they will not have enough money saved for retirement (source: Insured Retirement Institute).

* 57% of Boomers expect to work in retirement (Source: IRI).

* 61% of Generation X and Generation Y are not confident they will have enough for retirement, even though they have a median 23 years until they retire (Source: MFS Investments).

A retirement crisis for millions of Americas is looming, one this country has never experienced before. Our parents', grandparents' and great-grandparents' generations traditionally either had a pension or their families to fall back on.

As medical breakthroughs continue to extend longevity and Social Security is projected to run out of money sometime around 2037, this retirement crisis is destined to only get worse.

The fund industry must take a stand now to make workers realize that no matter how old or how young, no matter how much or how little they earn, no matter what their immediate financial obligations or desires, no matter how unattainable or unrealistic the savings goal the retirement savings calculators show-they must save far more than 3%, 6%, 10% or even 15% of their salaries.

Fidelity Investments reported in February that its average 401(k) balance reached $71,500 at the end of 2010, and for those who continuously contributed to their plan for 10 years, $183,100.

Surely the industry can help people do better than that. If not, it might be forced to move into the ancillary business of helping seniors find jobs.

Otherwise, retirement in America, in the not too distant future, may turn into a pipe dream.