Besides a decline in saving, Americans have been accumulating debt for many years, a trend which has seen a significant increase since the recent economic crisis. But who is responsible for a turnaround?

Saving money is an extremely important part of the fabric of life, and it is not being taught in schools or even by parents at home. Employers and their advisers have a unique opportunity to fill that void by providing financial literacy programs that can benefit all levels of employees by addressing both their immediate and long-term financial issues.

Barry Kublin, CEO, Benefit Plans Administrative Services, Inc., says, “Just as corporate America has, by necessity, accepted basic skills training responsibility, which otherwise should have been learned through the formal educational system, so must corporate America accept more responsibility for basic financial literacy. We have both savings and spending problems in the U.S. that are contributing to retirement income inadequacy.”

An HSBC Bank survey began gathering data in 2005 from a global pool of over 140,000 people, and released their findings on the future of retirement early this year. Although the survey covered various countries, Americans were found to be some of the most ill-prepared when it came to retirement savings, with 76% of those in the workforce admitting that major life events have significantly impacted their savings efforts. Such events included unemployment, major illness, divorce or the purchase of a home.

One of the main conclusions of the survey was that the ability to save for retirement was being severely hampered by increasingly difficult economic times that are strapping incomes, and increasing financial responsibilities. To compound the problem, debt is being acquired by those of a younger age, preventing them from tucking away savings for the future.

The main reasons for the HSBC poll participants not being adequately prepared for retirement were twofold. First of all, workers do not begin developing and initiating savings plans early enough in life, which equates to them needing to set aside more as they age. Secondly, younger generations are accumulating much more debt today, which is consuming more funds that would normally be available for saving.

In my 28 years working in the financial industry, I have heard too many times how an individual has looked back on their life and said, “I wish I had started saving earlier.”

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