Working in retirement also isn't as widespread as workers might think. Seventy percent of workers plan to hold a paying job in retirement. In reality, about one-quarter of retirees collect a paycheck, with many retirees saying they rely on Social Security more than they anticipated.

"The point is you shouldn't count on working longer as the solution to your retirement savings issue," says EBRI's Adams. "It may be that it's not something in your control."

You can improve your retirement security even during a weak economy.

First, calculate how much you need to save for retirement, an exercise that less than half of workers undertake. People who do the math, Adams says, "have a more realistic appreciation of what they will need and usually set higher goals."

Online calculators, such as EBRI's Ballpark E$timate at choosetosave.org, can help.

Of course, the earlier you start to save, the better. Last week, Baltimore-based T. Rowe Price released its confidence survey, which found many younger workers doubted they would have enough money for retirement.

The investment company recommends workers starting their careers save 15 percent a year — including any contributions from an employer — to be on target for retirement.

Christine Fahlund, Price's senior financial planner, encourages workers to stay on the job in their 60s, if possible.

To make this more appealing, she suggests older workers begin "practicing" retirement. You can stop contributing to the 401(k) or continue to kick in just enough to get the employer match, she says. Then use the extra money for travel or other activities you want to do in retirement, she says.

"Those extra years of employment at the same job or a new one that's part-time will provide a significant additional income for you over that decade," she says.

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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