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Fiscally Unfit

Fiscally Unfit

A survey shows Americans are unprepared for retirement and financial uncertainty.

John Rossheim / Monster

How well are America’s workers prepared for financial uncertainties and for the eventuality of retirement? In their own estimation, millions of employees haven’t found a secure path to a bright future, whether that future begins in a retirement 40 years from now or at the end of the month, when the bills come due.

Those are the disturbing findings of a recent survey commissioned by insurer MetLife. To put the results in perspective, we polled personal finance experts across the country.

Workers Worry About (But Don’t Prepare For) Illness, Disability and Retirement

The first finding of the MetLife study: Although American workers worry about how they’ll pay bills when they’re sick or in retirement, they don’t do enough about it. Some 71 percent of respondents said they’re “extremely concerned” about having enough money to pay bills during a sudden income loss, but only 60 percent of full-time workers have disability insurance.

Even those who do act to protect their future don’t always approach the task logically. “Workers are trying to decide which mutual fund will be the next winner in their 401k without even having a real sense of how much money they are trying to accumulate for retirement,” says Greg McGraime, a vice president and financial planner with JPMorgan Chase in New York City.

Employees Don’t Save and Invest Enough for Retirement

Many Americans feel they’re losing the retirement-planning game. Nearly half (45 percent) of survey respondents say they’re behind schedule in their retirement savings, and three out of 10 full-time 21- to 30-year-old workers haven’t even begun to stash something away.

“I see it as good news, in that it sends a message,” says Walt Woerheide, a professor of investments at American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. “People can be alerted while there’s still time to make a decision about what standard of living they choose for today versus during retirement.”

Some employers spur their workers to save by automatically enrolling new hires in the company 401k plan (individuals can opt out) or offering retirement accounts packaged with investment management services.