Nightly News   |  January 13, 2012

How to save for retirement

Find out what it takes to get back on track, even if you started saving late. NBC’s Anne Thompson reports.

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>>> our report a week ago tonight on saving for retirement drew a lot of comments from viewers on our website. a lot of them have questions about what to do if they're starting to save very late or if their retirement accounts have taken a hit. what does it take to get back on track? nbc news correspondent anne thompson helps us navigate the road to retirement with a look at how to bounce back.

>> reporter: turning 40 makes human resources manager tasha robinson realize her retirement nest egg of about $30,000 needs to get a lot bigger.

>> i want to be able to be self-sufficient and care for myself and live comfortably and not have to struggle or worry.

>> we're at 50%.

>> reporter: these are the mile tones aarp says you should hit on the road to retirement. at age 30, your retirement savings should be 40% of your annual income. by 40, two years of income. by 50, four years. by 60, nine years of income to maintain your lifestyle.

>> there are all these detours.

>> reporter: nbc news financial editor jean chatzky concedes are discouraging. should somebody look at these numbers and think, i'm too old, i can't do it?

>> absolutely not. somebody who is 50 years old has a very good shot of living another 30 to 40 years. that's a lot of time that you really have to save for.

>> reporter: starting early takes a smaller chunk of your paycheck. if you start in your 20s, 3% to 6%. in your 30s, up to 10%. wait until your 40s and you're talking about 25% of your income. if you delay until you're 50s, it is more daunting.

>> it's only about half 50 plus workers who are taking an active step and calculating how much they need for retirement.

>> reporter: is ignorance any excuse here?

>> no at this point people should have gotten the message, we are responsible for our own retirements in a way that no other generation has been responsible. we've got to pick up the ball.

>> reporter: robinson knows she needs more, so she's ordering out less and getting a roommate.

>> i'm not taking anything away from myself when i increase the contributions, i'm actually giving myself something.

>> reporter: retirement needs and goals are very individual, so to figure out what you need for the life you want, try aarp's retirement calculator . you can access on nbc nightly news.com. in order to do that, you need to know your salary, retirement savings and any pension benefits you might have. put all those numbers in and it will give you a reality check about where you are today and what those golden years could look like. brian, it is eye-popping.

>> even if the answer scares you, anne thompson , thanks for your reporting tonight.