THE BLOG
02/15/2012 05:43 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2012

It's Halftime in the Retirement Game: Playing to Win

The sentiment of Chrysler's Super Bowl Halftime ad is spot on: times have been hard, and it's time for Americans to make a comeback and turn things around.

Americans need a healthy dose of motivation, especially when it comes to saving for retirement.

If we evaluate the state of play in the "Retirement Game," many Americans find themselves in a scary position at half time. The reality is if we continue on the current game plan, many Americans will not have enough money to retire.

We know this:

• In a recent Gallup poll, 66 percent of Americans ranked not having enough money for retirement as their top financial concern.
• Baby boomers will be the first generation since the 1930s that will be worse off in their older years than their parents.

Most alarming, are the statistics that show that despite this concern, people aren't taking the necessary steps to save the amount needed for retirement:

• According to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement.
• 56 percent of American retirees still had outstanding debts when they retired, according to a survey by CESI Debt Solutions.

America needs an Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday-style pep talk to win the second half of the Retirement Game. There's little room for error. There needs to be a focus on the inches -- the little things we can do now, that, over time, will add up to make a difference.

I'm no Al Pacino, but here's my approach to a half time pep talk:

1) It's a Long Road to the Super Bowl.
Early in the season, the Giants spent many weeks in the bottom half of ESPN's power rankings. Lucky for the Giants, the season is long, and there is plenty of time to recover. The same is true when thinking about retirement savings.

Imagine setting money aside every week for a complete stranger. Someone you don't know, recognize, or have much in common with. Doesn't sound too appealing, right? Saving money for a stranger is essentially what you are doing when saving for retirement.

Studies have shown that when humans are able to picture older versions of themselves, it's easier to save for the future. Think of the activities that you enjoy doing now -- traveling, dinning, spending time with friends -- and think of retirement savings as a way to guarantee you can keep doing these things forever.

2) Keep Track of the Inches
Reaching small goals is a great way to stay on track toward a larger goal. In a football game, the quarterback isn't going for a touchdown with every play. It's five yards here, 15 yards there, the reward of a few first downs, and finally, the joy of a touchdown.

Saving a million dollars towards retirement might sound intimidating. Saving $150 per week to reach this goal? Probably more palatable, and, will likely yield the results you need over the long term. Track your progress, one yard -- or dollar -- at a time.

3) A Good Defense is the Best Offense
In the retirement game, defend against your worst enemy: yourself. We tend to think that we're above average, on average. It's called over-confidence bias and it's a behavioral bias that causes us to make poor investing decisions. Setting the right asset allocation, investing in a diverse portfolio, and auto-depositing from the outset requires less effort on your part -- eliminating the potential for behavior-driven mistakes. Don't kid yourself that you'll invest whatever's left at the end of each paycheck. You'll miss that goal every time.

It's halftime in the retirement game, America. Will you be making your come back?