You're on your own
It's like one of those high school math brain-twisters: The amount you save times your compounded earnings, minus any investment losses and factoring for inflation, equals what standard of living at some (movable) future date?
Try solving for that "X."
But one thing is true: Save nothing now, and that's exactly how much you'll have when you retire.
"People have to be much more proactive," says Tony Webb, research economist with the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
A study by the Economic Policy Institute using the Federal Reserve's 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances showed that half the people on the cusp of retirement (ages 56 to 61) had a retirement account balance of less than $91,000. At a typical drawdown rate of about 4 percent per year, that equals about $3,640 annually, or about $303 a month in retirement income, Webb says.
One big problem with everything financial is that you pick up skills as you move along -- and make plenty of mistakes along the way, says Webb.
And, unlike a lot of situations, the people retiring now can't look to past generations as a model because the game has changed, he adds.