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Status on America's retirement

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But savings tend to be modest. Consider: Financial experts recommend individuals replace at least 70 percent of their pre-retirement income in retirement. Others set the bar higher. When EBRI polled retirees, 55 percent said they need income that's equal to 95 percent of their pre-retirement income -- or more.

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Nevertheless, EBRI found that, on average, 49 percent of workers have saved less than $25,000. Among older individuals who are 55 or older and poised to quit working soon, one-third has less than $25,000. A slim minority -- 14 percent of people of all ages -- have more than $250,000. Among those 55 or older, 29 percent have saved that much or more.

The upshot? The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College concludes that more than four of 10 Americans are "at risk" for being unable to maintain their standard of living in retirement.

Fidelity Research Institute computes that American households have a median $22,500 in retirement savings and should receive $29,500 in Social Security. That puts them on track to replace 58 percent of their pre-retirement income after work.

That means "the typical household will have to live on 42 percent less income in retirement when compared to their pre-retirement income," says Guy Patton, executive director at Fidelity's retirement research group. "The thing that worries many of us is that it doesn't allow room for error."

401(k)s: Missteps among good moves
The typical 401(k) plan requires individuals to save at least 6 percent of earnings to qualify for a full match of funds from employers. Most employees surpass this benchmark, setting aside 7.9 percent of their salary. Add the typical employer match of 3 percent, according to Profit Sharing/401K Council of America (PSCA), and workers are setting aside a bit more than 10 percent of earnings.

Yet, 22 percent of those who contribute to a 401(k) fail to save enough to qualify for a full match from their employers, Hewitt found. And nearly half of low-wage workers and 37 percent of employees in their 20s left this free money on the table.

Ironically, the growth in automatic enrollment could be partly to blame. It's currently offered in nearly 17 percent of plans, according to ICI. And roughly seven of 10 workers favor automatic enrollment into 401(k)s because it ensures people get signed onto saving, EBRI found. Conversely, the so-called "default" savings rates -- which now average 3 percent, according to PSCA -- can be set below the typical 6 percent threshold to qualify for matching funds.

Next: "Saving is the first step"
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Over-50 saving strategies
Surviving 'sandwich years'
De-cluttering your finances
IRA penalty has multiple exceptions
Best times to shop for bargains
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