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According to the National Retirement Risk Index, 48% of Americans will not be financially prepared for retirement. This was just one of the studies hotly debated at a recent retirement summit hosted by the Investment Company Institute (ICI). A far more optimistic study from Scholz & Seshardri concluded that more than 84% of us will be prepared for average expenses and medical bills in our retirement years.

Why all the fear mongering about our retirement (un)preparedness?

Well, quite frankly, it seems to be effective. You see, most families don’t start savings early on. It seems like paying for one’s education, home purchase, and then children and their education gets in the way of systematic and substantial savings. Yet, later on, when earnings are higher and family expenses are reduced, we tend to work hard to catch up. In essence, we drive forecasters crazy by our uneven life-cycle patterns.

Perhaps all the screaming by financial planners that we are not prepared is having the unintended consequences of getting us to get prepared. Sort of like Jonah, yes the one swallowed by a fish, preaching a message of God’s judgment of death and destruction to the citizens of Nineveh, and then the people repented and God relented. Jonah didn’t enjoy the irony of the situation one bit.

Another reason that we may be able to get by in our golden years is that our expenses are scaled back because our lifestyle is reduced. We consume less because we are consumed with the notion that we might outlive our retirement. A logical fear leads to a far more logical result – less spending.

Where does this fit with us achieving our image of retirement? Well, we probably are not adequately ready – at least for our current dream of retirement.

As principal of NuView IRA, one of the leading self-directed IRA administrators in the nation, I see clients carefully making investments outside the traditional markets in order to gain cash flow and inflation protection for their later years. In addition, using techniques with their Roth IRAs, they have the flexibility to purchase rental real estate that may be later distributed from their IRA for use as a retirement home.

So, the two options to retirement savings are clear: dial back the dream, or roll up your sleeves, save slavishly, and invest wisely.