By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe

Save just $20 a week over 30 years, at a compounding
annual interest rate of 7 percent, and you'll have
more than $100,000 to put toward retirement.

But as simple as saving $20 a week seems, about 25
percent of workers participating in an annual national
retirement confidence survey say they have set aside
nothing. Even though $100,000 may not seem like much,
it's more than what many current retirees have saved.
A large proportion of retirees depend solely on Social
Security for income.

Saving too little, too late, is one of the biggest
problems people face in planning for retirement, says
Dallas L. Salisbury, president and chief executive of
the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a
Washington-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.

"Individuals think that saving a little doesn't do any
good," said Salisbury, whose organization cosponsors
the annual retirement confidence survey. But over a
long period of time, "$20 a week can do it."

With fewer employers offering traditional pensions,
the uncertainties surrounding Social Security, and the
rising cost of health care, proper financial planning
for retirement is more critical than ever, say
retirement planning specialists.

That means answering such questions as "How do I save?
How do I invest?" takes on the seriousness of
"life-threatening decisions," said William F. Sharpe,
a Nobel-prize winning economist at Stanford University
and cofounder of Financial Engines, an online
investment advisory firm.

But don't be paralyzed by the enormity of the issues
and the complexity of retirement topics as annuities,
401(k)s, trusts, and long-term care insurance, say
planning specialists. Instead, people should take that
first step toward saving, no matter how small the
amount and no matter how little they know about

Don't get "so overwhelmed by the hype of `If you're
not buying stock, why bother?'," said EBRI's
Salisbury. "You may have to start with a passbook or
savings account" before you have enough to invest in
something with potentially higher gains, whether that
be Treasury securities or stock mutual funds.

"Any rate of return is better than not having any
savings," Salisbury said.

To spur people into taking that first step, the
American Savings Education Council (ASEC) has devised
a "Ballpark Estimate" worksheet. It allows you to
estimate your annual retirement income needs, the
total amount you need to save to provide that income
stream, and how much you need to set aside each year
to get there, depending on the number of years until
your retirement.

People who say they have taken the time to attempt
such a calculation turn out to be better prepared,
according to this year's annual retirement confidence
survey, cosponsored by ASEC, EBRI, and survey research
firm Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc.

For instance, 88 percent of those who have done a
calculation say they are saving for retirement, while
only 61 percent of those who have not done such a
calculation say they have started setting money aside.

Another way to calculate how much you'll need to save
for retirement, and your probability of reaching that
goal, is through a free online financial forecast
offered by Financial Engines, at The program, which needs a
Web browser enabled for Java, asks you for what is
already in your portfolio, your age, your income, and
other information.

Then, after taking into account inflation, your
expected Social Security income, and other factors,
the program comes up with the probability of you
reaching your retirement income needs. The better the
probability - say 85 percent - the sunnier the
financial forecast icon that the program generates.
The worse the probability, the cloudier.

For people who are just beginning to plan for
retirement, the Money Matters conference features
several sessions of interest.
In "How Much Is Enough?," columnist Kenneth Hooker
helps you figure out the right retirement nest-egg
amount for you. Julie Jason, author of "You and Your
401(k)," focuses on what you need to decide now to get
the most out of your tax-deferred retirement account.

Jonathan Pond, financial planner and nationally known
public television and radio commentator, and pension
specialist Micki Hoesly debate the merits of annuities
during "Annuities - Good or Evil?" And Mary Farrell, a
regular commentator on the public television show
"Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser," and author of
"Beyond the Basics," takes on the topic of "Rethinking
Retirement Planning."

For those already living in retirement, the conference
features these sessions:

"What's Next? Financial Decisions for the Rest of Your
Life," by Ginger Applegarth, of WBZ-TV and author of
"The Money Diet." Ed Slott, publisher of Ed Slott's
IRA Advisor newsletter, discusses "Managing IRA
Withdrawals," and Jack Everett, author of "The Truth
About Trusts: A Trustee's Survival Guide," shares "The
Truth About Trusts."
Benjamin Lipson, president of Just For Seniors
Insurance Agency, and Stephen Mathieu, president of
Elder Planning Advisors of New Hampshire, will debate
"Long-Term Care Insurance - Who Needs It?"