Financial Literacy - Securing retirement
retirement
Rethinking retirement in tough times

"All of a sudden everybody's got to have the latest in electronics, everybody is getting a big home and every kid has to have a car in high school," Hebeler says.

Generational differences

Over time, the thrift of the silent generation took a backseat to the splurge mentality of baby boomers, Generation X and now the millennials.

Kevin Reardon, a Certified Financial Planner based in Brookfield, Wis., contends that the savings problem is a generational issue largely facing baby boomers and their children.

With the exception of a few upticks in the '70s and '80s, our national savings rate declined steadily from a high of 26.1 percent in 1944 to roughly 0.4 percent in 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The number has since moderated somewhat, rising to 4.6 percent in 2009 as consumers have sought to strengthen their financial position in the wake of the economic crisis.

"I point to lifestyle as far as that goes," Reardon says. "They're (baby boomers) choosing the nicer car and the higher lifestyle versus saving money."

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Eventually it hits home. "All of a sudden they walk in and say I'm 50 years old and I need to get on track," he says.

Retirement savings killers

Credit cards. Despite growing concerns over the economy and lackluster personal savings, Americans love to use their plastic.

And our debt levels continue to climb. Credit card debt stood at $888.1 billion in October 2009, up from $770 billion in 2003, according to the Federal Reserve Board. 

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