Most Americans aren't saving enough for retirement, but they think they are.
According to a recent Pew Research Center study cited in a Reuter's article, two-thirds of people in the United States say they are pleased with how they have constructed their nest egg. However, in most cases, people are woefully unprepared for retirement, financial experts say.
Although financial commentators might be correct about the fact that people don't save enough for retirement, it's insulting to say it's because we want "immediate gratification."
Some financial psychologists like to talk about the famous Stanford University study that gave children the choice to have one marshmallow now or two if they waited. It's not a fair analogy when it comes to Generation X and whether they are saving for retirement.
We aren't all stuffing our faces with the marshmallows of the "live-for-today" lifestyle. We are paying for our children's college bills or our own student loans. We are trying to make sense out of an economy that is straight out of house of mirrors.
Keeping up with inflation, not the Joneses
Most of us are just trying to pay our bills. With the rising costs of gasoline, food and other necessities, there is little wiggle room left in the budget for splurges. While I automatically save for retirement, I've had to lower the percentage I contribute to my 401(k) due to the rising costs. The best I can do at this stage is raise my contribution after receiving a pay raise.
Figuring out how much we need to retire
Another reason our retirement savings goals have eluded us is because our goals don't make any sense to me. It's difficult to save for something when you are in the fog about how much you need. I have no way of knowing whether the cost of living will be reasonable or outrageous by today's standards when I reach retirement age in another 26 years. I don't know if it's realistic that I can live on 70 or 80 percent of my current income or whether I'll need more. To get on track, I figured it's better to pick any random number than no number at all. I'm now shooting to save a half a million for retirement.
Checking to see if I'm on track
Instead of feeling pleased with my retirement savings, I'm disappointed. A 40-year-old such as me should have two times her annual salary saved for retirement. I only meet this goal if I don't include any overtime, bonuses or extra income I bring in each year. I'm not as disappointed with my efforts to save for retirement as much as I'm upset with the returns. I remind myself that I don't need my retirement balance to be high now since I'm not retired. I just need it to get high by the year 2037 or later if I don't retire on time.
I'm not smug about my future, but I know I'm doing what I can.
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.
More from this contributor:Saving Too Much For Retirement