Over the past four or five generations, we’ve learned much about good living and what it takes to stay healthy with the goal of living longer. Medicine has evolved to the point to where childhood diseases aren’t death sentences for our young people and growing older – while maintaining our health – is absolutely possible. The problem with that is from a financial stance, the two realities don’t always mean a seamless effort.

We’re Not Saving Enough

Now, the Wall Street Journal brings that reality full circle with new findings. First, and not really surprising, is the fact we’re not saving enough. And, of course, we’re living longer than our parents and grandparents. The words “depressing” and “worrisome” come to mind. These truths are courtesy of a new report from the Employee Research Institute. While the findings are indeed worrisome, for many, it should serve as a wake up call. With incredibly high credit card debt, multiple marriages, the recession, the lack of jobs and a host of other social issues, American consumers are carrying alot on their plate – and we’re going to be doing so well into our 70s and beyond.

Among the findings:

  • 28% of us do not believe we will be able to retire with enough financial security. This number is the highest since the numbers were collected more than two decades ago.
  • A full 57% of American workers say they have less than $25,000 in household savings and investments. This doesn’t include their homes, yet it’s a whopping 49% increase from just five years ago.
  • Meanwhile, only 66% of workers say they’re prepared financially for retirement. In 2009, in the depths of the recession, 75% said they were prepared.
  • Half of us can confidently say we could get our hands on $2,000 for unexpected emergencies. This certainly is worrisome since we’ve been told our entire lives we should have at least three months salary saved at all times.

The Difference Two Decades Makes

American males who are 65 as of 2013 will likely live another twenty years. That’s up from 19 years in previous years. Their female counterparts will live another 23 years, up from 21 years in years past.

If the words “retirement crisis’ come to mind, you’re not alone. Despite the improving stock market and other positive economic factors, many say they don’t believe those numbers are built on a solid foundation,

It just doesn’t make sense that these numbers are realistic when there’s nothing else that supports the record breaking numbers associated with the Dow,

said a retirement welder in Tennessee,

No, I’m not prepared to retire.

These realities, coupled with the lack of faith many have in the economy, are presenting unique problems that make saving for the future difficult. Never before have we not had as little faith in the economy as we do today. Remember, along with the record breaking credit card debt, there are other unsecured loans that are causing many to lose sleep, including the trillion dollar plus student loan crisis in this country. The statistics show us that much. This means that fewer than half would actually be able to pay off a credit card balance if they had to today. And the low numbers associated with confidence in having enough money to retire cements the hard truths.

Businesses Worried Too

Taking it a step further, there’s another report from the Society of Actuaries that reveal businesses are facing the same crises as their employees. The longer life expectancy rates mean companies could add close to $100 billion to corporate pension liabilities over the net couple of decades. That’s a 5% increase from just a few years ago. Remember, these are the same companies that are already wondering how they’re going to remain in compliance with the new healthcare rules that go into effect in less than one year.

In short, we’re simply not prepared to stretch our retirement accounts for financial independence. Most of us, like our parents and grandparents, have worked hard our entire adult lives with our eye on the ball. The ball being, of course, retirement. Many of us see grandchildren, travel and good living – but those images could very well be in jeopardy and could soon not even be realistic.

For small business owners, the problems are further magnified. They are not insulated the way bigger companies are; there aren’t the same tax breaks and options their larger counterparts are afforded. Many have long since cut their staff to the bare minimum and there are many who aren’t even sure they’ll be able to keep their doors open once Obamacare goes into effect.

A Crisis Brewing

Alicia Munnell, who is the director at the Boston College Center for Retirement Research says more companies are doing away with traditioanl retirement offerings, such as pensions, “Workers are recognizing there is a financial crisis,” she explained. Pensions specifically have fell off in terms of the role they play in most retirement savings in the past decade, but again, when you consider the statistics, the total picture begins to emerge. The number of private sector Americans who were covered solely by defined plans fell to 3% in 2011 from 28% in 1979, according to U.S. Department of Labor data compiled during the research.

The fact that the surveys occurred on days that the stock market was rallying is even more worrisome; it’s clear those who participated gave very little credence to the current goings-on. A 75-year-old retired insurance broker in Polk City, Fla., says both he and his wife believed they would have more than enough savings to ensure they live comfortably until they were at least 95. Now, though, he’s not so sure and says they might find themselves struggling should they live past 85. Still, he stressed his biggest worry was what the future holds for his children and grandchildren.

They’re never going to be able to create wealth, other than what our generation leaves them and what they do with it,

he said.

Are you prepared for retirement? Are you concerned that you might not be or that these wild cards could greatly change your financial future? Let us know your thoughts on these most recent findings.