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4 Ways Americans Are Screwing Up Their Retirements

Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. workers, by and large, are an optimistic lot, choosing to see their coffee cup half-full rather than half-empty.

Sure, a soft economy and a sputtering job market have triggered concern, but ask an individual worker and chances are he or she will say the future will be better than the present and good times are just around the corner.

That optimism is also present when you ask U.S. adults about their finances, although data suggest that optimism may be moderately misplaced.

According to a study from Boston-based Natixis Global Asset Management, Americans "are optimistic" their money situation will improve by next year. And the vast majority of U.S. adults, as measured by the survey, say their retirement plans are on track to yield a good income in retirement.

A closer look at the data says that is just not so.

In fact, in many ways Americans may be getting in their own way on the path to a decent retirement. The Natixis study reveals four glaring (and not so glaring) omissions or mistakes being made with retirement plans:

No plan. Despite an overwhelming sense that their financial futures are in order, less than half of all American workers have a financial plan for retirement. All told, 54% of Americans don't have one, and another 45% don't have clear financial goals, according to Natixis.

Rose-colored glasses. The survey adds that even those workers with a financial plan may be "significantly underestimating the amount they will need in retirement." Natixis reports that most Americans say they will need 62% of their current yearly income to retire comfortably, even though firm analysts say 80% is a "commonly used" retirement income target by financial advisers.

Health care dichotomy. This one is more of a gray area, but Americans seem to be underestimating the impact of their health on their long-term finances. According to the survey, Americans say they will need five years worth of long-term care savings, yet 40% of Americans say LTC costs "not covered by insurance" are their largest financial roadblock in retirement.

Not hitting the asset allocation mark. While 83% of U.S. investors say they want to find the right balance between safety and performance with their retirement savings, 65% say they "cannot decide" how to cover both issues. "This is particularly an issue for investors who are nearing retirement because interest rates on their savings accounts aren't generating enough income and they are reluctant to invest because volatility in the market presents more risk than they can bear," says John T. Hailer, chief executive of Natixis.

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