2 Simple Steps to Make Your Retirement Savings Leap

Fear has motivated people to start saving more, but here are two positive ways to upgrade savings.

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"Positive reinforcement works a lot better than fear when it comes to savings," says Hevert, noting that one of the biggest factors in getting people to save is matching funds from employers.

The bottom line: U.S. savers rank high in saving for retirement, but still need more.

But there were more similarities than differences in the savings patterns and motivations among respondents in the 25 countries in HSBC's annual Future of Retirement survey, which was mostly made up of leading Western economies but also included developing ones like China, India, Mexico, Singapore, Egypt, and Taiwan. An emerging global middle class has more access to medical care. But that means that as in the United States, people in those countries are living longer and cannot fund every year of retirement. Americans expect to live 21 years post-retirement but figure they only have savings for 14. Similar shortfalls were reported for all of the countries.

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Fidelity gave some reasons for optimism, though, saying it found people were hitting their New Year's saving and spending goals 62 percent of the time, the highest level ever. And it's not just talk. Fidelity reported the highest-ever amounts in its retirement plans at the end of last year, at $77,500, an increase of 12 percent in 2012. Much of that came from investment gains. But it also came from people putting away more, and marked the 15th straight quarter of increased savings in the plans.