Some financial analysts describe people that don't save and delay planning for retirement as facing the "retirement postponement syndrome" or RPS. Many of these procrastinators hope that something magical will happen to boost their savings, but usually they end up desperately scrambling to save as they get older. (For more, see The Top 4 Reasons To Save For Retirement Now.)

IN PICTURES: Retire A Millionaire In 10 Steps

The people trapped in retirement postponement syndrome are often in debt or overly extended from paying their children's college tuition and mortgage payments. In fact, a 2006 Consumer Federation of America and Financial Planning Association survey revealed that only 10% of people expect to save a million dollars in their lifetime, 11% hope to inherit money and 21% are depending on winning the lottery. Only 55% said saving monthly was the best route for a sound retirement.

Too many people act like Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" who saw her life crumbling but said, "I'll think about it tomorrow." But one financial expert noted that "No one at age 65 ever complained that they've saved too much."

People who take steps to place their financial life in order can avoid RPS and plan for the future if they control their spending and save regularly. Here are five steps for avoiding retirement postponement syndrome:

IN PICTURES: 6 Millionaire Traits That You Can Adopt

Assess Your Financial Situation

Analyze your financial portfolio. How much have you saved, and how much are you in debt? What is the status of your cash flow, income and expenses? What changes can you make, and what can you cut back on? If you're unsure of finances, work with an expert, a financial planner or CPA to start developing a plan for the future.

Start Saving

Given the choice between saving and buying a dress or a flat screen TV, most people opt for the immediate gratification of material goods. To ensure savings, take advantage of any company's 401K plan, which builds automatic deposits by deducting a percentage of salary from your paycheck. If you're self-employed, create your own SEP-IRA savings plan. (To learn more, see our SEP IRAs Tutorial.)

Create a Master Savings Plan
If you live to age 70 and beyond, how much money will you need? Devise a monthly, long-term plan to save and try to defer taking social security. The longer you delay tapping social security, the more money you obtain. Living below and not beyond your income is the secret to saving.

Use Compounding to Build Savings
Start saving in your 20s and watch your money grow. Financial planners note that an 18-year old who save $20 a week or $1,000 a year and invest in the stock market, which averages 10% return a year (on average), can save a million dollars by the time they turn 65. If they start at thirty, consumers must save $67 a week and at forty, $188 a week to reach a million dollars. Starting to save early can maximize the effects of compounding, which multiplies your money based on returns. (To find out how much you need to save, check out our Millionaire Calculator.)

Tap the Three Factors to Success
Financial experts say investors have three factors in their favor: time, rate of return and the amount saved. If consumers stay out of debt and begin to save, they can watch their money grow. Time is an investor's best friend.

The Bottom Line
You don't have to be in the top 2% of wage earners to start saving for retirement. For example, one couple in their thirties - one a firefighter and the other a nurse - together earned about $100,000 annually. They spent $35,000 a year, paid $15,000 in taxes and saved $50,000 a year. At a normal rate of return, the couple can amass $2 million before they turn 50. It's not what you earn but what you save that determines effective retirement planning. The moral: people who save a portion of their income can become millionaires even on a middle-class income and avoid the retirement postponement syndrome. (To learn more, check out 10 Steps To Retire A Millionaire.)

Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: Barack Obama Vs. The World.

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    2 Common Ways to Misuse Target Date Funds

    The world of asset classes is just as complicated as taking vitamins. How much should you take of small caps? Intermediate bonds? Emerging market stocks?
  2. Professionals

    Charity or Retirement Saving: Which to Prioritize?

    Financial planners need to help clients with their financial goals but also support them in their philanthropic endeavours.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    What Target-Date Funds Can Teach About Investing

    Target-date funds are a popular way to invest for retirement. Here's what they can teach the novice investor.
  4. Retirement

    The 5 Best Retirement Communities in Dallas, Texas

    Discover why the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas is a popular retirement destination, and five of the best retirement communities in the area.
  5. Professionals

    How to Protect Retirement and Help Adult Kids

    Parents can both protect their retirement money and help their adult kids. Here's how.
  6. Retirement

    10 Ways to Save Your Retirement: It's Not Too Late

    It's not too late to start saving for your retirement, even if you took longer to start thinking about it and doing something about it.
  7. Retirement

    5 Ways to Use Your Home to Retire

    Retirement is going to cost a lot, and for homeowners who face a shortfall, their home can be a source of income. From downsizing to renting, here's how.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Mutual Funds Millennials Should Avoid

    Find out what kinds of mutual funds are unsuitable for millennial investors, especially when included in millennial retirement accounts.
  9. Retirement

    Retire on 70% of Your Income? Why It's Not Enough

    Many people think 70% will be enough to support them in retirement, but they forget a few significant expenses that could lurk in the future.
  10. Professionals

    Why Women Are Underprepared for a Spouse’s Death

    Women are typically less prepared for the death of a spouse than men. An advisor can help mitigate some of the financial burdens widows may end up facing.
  1. What are the main kinds of annuities?

    There are two broad categories of annuity: fixed and variable. These categories refer to the manner in which the investment ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the risks of rolling my 401(k) into an annuity?

    Though the appeal of having guaranteed income after retirement is undeniable, there are actually a number of risks to consider ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do I get out of my annuity and transfer to a new one?

    If you decide your current annuity is not for you, there is nothing stopping you from transferring your investment to a new ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How can I determine if a longevity annuity is right for me?

    A longevity annuity may be right for an individual if, based on his current health and a family history of longevity, he ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How does a Roth IRA grow over time?

    Your Roth IRA account grows over time thanks to two funding sources: contributions and earnings. While your contributions ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can my 401(k) be seized or garnished?

    As long as your retirement funds are held in your 401(k) and you do not take them as distributions, your 401(k) cannot be ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!