Are you concerned about retirement? You are not alone.

The just-released 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) reveals people are more pessimistic than at any time in the past two decades about their retirement prospects.

High unemployment rates. Federal, state, and local government fiscal crises. Rising health care costs. Lower investment returns. A surge in the older population putting stress on social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Longer life expectancies. All of these factors are weighing heavy on the hearts of people concerned about retirement.

According to the RCS survey, 27 percent of people now say they are “not at all confident” about retirement, up 5 percentage points from the level measured just one year ago. And the percentage of workers saying they are "very confident" of a comfortable retirement ties with 2009 at 13 percent—the lowest rate ever measured by the RCS. Nearly a third of survey participants said they had to dip into their savings last year to pay for basic expenses.

“Many people are planning to work longer and retire later because they know they simply can't afford to leave the work place—both for the paycheck and for the benefits,” says
survey co-author Mathew Greenwald, of Greenwald & Associates. “Unfortunately, many retirees also tell us they left the work force earlier than they planned, either because of health problems or layoffs. So it may not necessarily be a bad thing that those who can work longer choose to do so.”

What’s a concerned worker to do? Start putting away money for retirement now. The United States Department of Labor has some strategic tips for preparing for retirement.

  1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals.

  2. Know your retirement needs.

  3. Contribute to your employer’s retirement savings plan.

  4. Learn about your employer’s pension plan.

  5. Consider basic investment principles.

  6. Don’t touch your retirement savings.

  7. Ask your employer to start a plan.

  8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account.

  9. Find out about your Social Security benefits.

  10. Ask questions.


Those are the tips in a nutshell. You can visit the Department of Labor online to dig deeper into each of those retirement planning tips—but the overarching message is clear: Get in formed and start planning now.

Check out this YouTube video with some additional tips for retirement planning: