The year you are born can play a dramatic role in shaping your relationship with money as well as your beliefs about your own financial security. Unfortunately, the most recent economic recession has many young adults feeling less than confident about their retirement prospects.

A new survey released by PNC Bank (NYSE: PNC) showed that the youngest generation of American adults—those between the ages of 20 to 29 to be exact—are less than confident about their abilities to retire comfortably. Specifically, only 18 percent believe they will have enough money to retire comfortably when they need to retire.

Moreover, PNC’s survey showed that the older 20-somethings got, the less likely they were to not know when they would reach total financial independence. While 39 percent of those between the ages of 20 and 21 are confident they will eventually be totally financially independent, that percentage drops to just 22 percent for those between the ages of 28 and 29 years old. Adding insult to injury, just one third of those surveyed perceived themselves to be totally financially independent by the age of 29. 

This generation of young adults, often referred to as millenials or the boomerang generation, definitely has its work cut out for them. While 20-somethings are poised to become the most highly educated group of Americans to date, they’re also just as poised to become the most debt-ridden generation as well. Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with debt in 2008, while less than half of bachelor’s degree recipients had student loan debt in 1993, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, the average student loan burden in 2010 was about $24,000, while default rates on these types of loans have also increased over time. 

While on the surface it may seem somewhat premature for young adults to be as concerned about retirement as they now, PNC’s data could suggest otherwise. According to the bank, 20-somethings are expected to outnumber all population segments—even Baby Boomeres—by 2017. When one considers the financial strain Baby Boomers are already expected to place on entitlement programs such as social security as they approach retirement age, it becomes clearer why it may be important for Americans to make retirement planning a priority when they are younger rather than older.

If you’re a young person and want to make retirement planning a priority in your life then here are some tips for creating (and growing your nest egg).

1. Skip The Presents, Request Cash for Holidays and Special Events:

If you’re a 20-something keen on boosting your retirement savings then consider letting your friends and family help you along in the process. If you’ve got a birthday coming up, or if you are expecting gifts from loved ones for the holidays, then request small cash gifts that can be funneled into retirement savings accounts instead of traditional gifts. If you’re a 20-something that’s planning to get married, then consider setting up a retirement fund guests can contribute to instead of having a traditional registry.

2. Take Advantage of Retirement Savings Plans at Work (And Track Your Progress):

We all know the benefits of participating in a company-sponsored 401(k) program, especially if you are lucky enough to work for a company that will match your contributions. But, don’t think that once you’ve decided how much to contribute that your work is done. Keeping track of your investments on a regular basis is just as important as making the decision to contribute to a 401(k) account. Failure to adequately diversify your investments, or even failing to appropriately boost the amount of your contributions, could make the difference between retiring in comfort or scraping by.

3. And If Your Company Doesn’t Have a 401(K):

As we’ve written before, just because your company doesn’t offer a 401(k) doesn’t mean you can’t begin saving for your retirement. If you work for yourself, for a new company that doesn’t sponsor retirement accounts, or if you freelance, you’ll need to be more proactive in your retirement planning. Just remember that you have options. Opening up an Individual Retirement Account (IRAs), contributing to a regular savings account or even opening a brokerage account with company’s like E*Trade are great alternatives to get you started.  Just remember that, similar to 401(k) accounts, IRAs offer the added benefit of lowering your tax liabilities the more you contribute since these sort of accounts are tax deductible.

Follow this link for PNC’s full survey results.

Carolyn Okomo is a personal finance writer and the Tuesday columnist for You can follow her tweets @CarolynMBT.

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