There is an interesting article in the Boston Globe by John Wasik, a reporter who has just turned 50. Read it at http://www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/articles/2007/07/04/some_things_slow_down_at_50_but_its_crucial_to_save_money_faster/
Like so many of us in this generation, he still has children at home. (I'm 58, with a 17 year old, the youngest of five daughters, still in high school.) He says that the average American at age 50 has less than $100,000 in retirement savings--a disheartening statistic, if true. Unfortunately, that certainly would have included me at age 50. Even now, I only have $167,000 in my 401 (k). I currently save 16% of my income plus my employer pays another 6%. But this is a very new development.
How much easier it would have been, and how much more money I would have now if I'd been saving regularly since my twenties, even if it had been only 2 or 3% of my income.
My 25 year old daughter (with a big push from her mother) has started her 401 (k). She saves just enough to get a complete employer match--3%. As a theatre manager who works less than 40 hours per week, we're talking about savings of around $40 per month plus the employer match of another $12. But time is on her side, an advantage I no longer have.
I do have to say that I found Mr. Wasik far too pessimistic when it comes to Social Security. He seems convinced that it will no longer be around by the time he retires. I don't buy that for a minute. There are too many sensible ways to fund Social Security that have yet to be tried. One example would be to remove the limitation on withholding Social Security only for wages under $100,000. Frankly, the political ramifications of letting the Social Security system go under are so huge that I cannot see any public body allowing that to happen.
But in the meantime, I keep (albeit belatedly!) saving, saving, saving.