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The upside of minimal retirement savings

March 15, 2011 |  2:31 pm

Americans are more downbeat than ever about their prospects for retirement, but at least they’re starting to realize what bad financial shape they’re in.

That’s the upshot from a survey released Tuesday about the retirement-readiness of American workers.

As have a seemingly endless number of surveys before it, the poll by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found workers growing increasingly doubtful about their ability to finance comfortable retirements.

The percentage of workers who say they are “not at all comfortable” about their retirement outlook jumped to 27% from 22% a year ago. Only 13% are “very confident.” Both were the worst numbers in the poll’s 21-year history.

About 6 in 10 workers say they’re stashing away money for retirement, but 56% of those have accumulated less than $25,000, excluding their homes and pensions.

The silver lining, said Jack VanDerhei, EBRI research director, is that workers sense their situations becoming so dire that they might be spurred into action.

“To me, these are positive findings: People are increasingly recognizing the level of savings realistically needed for a comfortable retirement,” VanDerhei said. “People’s expectations need to come closer to reality so they will save more and delay retirement until it is financially feasible.”

 -- Walter Hamilton