"Not having enough money is a worry and that is why people need to have a plan. It can get rid of some of that worry if they know, 'I need to set aside X amount of dollars every year,'" he says.
Anyone at any income level could benefit from knowing what their goal should be, whether they use a calculator or visit a financial adviser to determine it.
Birkofer believes that retirement calculators are underutilized tools for most people. "Retirement calculators have not been embraced," he says. "They require input and time, and people don't have time or the information."
Tellingly, those who used a financial adviser to find out how much money they'll need to retire have the highest confidence level. About 38 percent are confident that their savings will more than suffice.
"I'd say that is a function of the market and self-selection," says Birkofer. "You have to pay a financial adviser somehow, and if you have the assets to pay them, you are probably on the right track. So it's a circle."
Health care contingency plan
On top of day-to-day expenses, Americans must accumulate enough savings to cover health care costs in retirement. It's an issue that can keep even the healthiest person awake at night. Most people understand that Medicare is not a ticket to an unlimited health care bonanza. Eighty-five percent of everyone surveyed knows that Medicare will not cover all of their medical expenses.
Ages of those with an IRA
or workplace retirement plan
"I was impressed that such a high percentage of people recognize that Medicare will not pay for everything," says Boston College's Munnell.
But, respondents' contingency plans to cover the gap between what will and won't be covered does leave something to be desired.
"A lot of people are just hiding their heads in the sand about who is going to pay for their medical benefits," says Birkofer.
About 52 percent of Americans say they will be very or somewhat likely to apply for Medicaid, a fact that CFP Parks finds disconcerting.
"With Medicaid for a single person, you would need to spend down your assets to approximately $2,000 per person before being able to qualify," he says. "It's difficult to do and difficult to qualify for."