You haven’t saved enough for retirement. Don’t feel bad. Hardly anyone has. A survey published in May 2012 showed that one-half of Americans are not saving anything for their golden years.

Nada. Zilch.

And the recent economic crisis has hurt those who were able to put aside something for the future. Home values have plummeted. Those 401(k) and IRA accounts that were supposed to be our salvation have been ravaged by Wall Street excess, hidden fees and stock-market loses.

It’s ugly out there. And the older you are, the uglier things seem. Those deepening lines on your face are pointing straight toward the poor house.

Or are they?

As dark as things might seem at first glance, there’s no reason to panic.

No matter what your age, there are things you can do that will ease the financial challenges of your later years.

Everyone needs to do “last-minute” planning

For the young, i.e., people less than 50-years old, there are two simple steps they must take.

1. Save. Save as much as you can, put it in places where it can grow tax-free, and don’t touch it. Investing even miniscule amounts can make an extraordinary difference over time.
2. Help your parents now. Young adults must accept that — barring some unexpected, rapid and substantial turnaround in the global economy — they will face a future that carries considerable economic challenges. Among those challenges will be caring for their aging parents.

There’s probably no better move that a young adult could make now than to ensure that his/her parents will have enough in retirement.

The alternative is bleak indeed: imagine the millennial generation some 30 years into the future, their earning and savings power diminished by the economic crisis of their youth, taxes at historic levels as the government pays off the debt incurred by earlier generations, Social Security gone, trying to support both their children and their elderly parents.

A different plan

For people older than 50 and without adequate savings, the answers are more complex.

But there are answers.

In this series of articles we’ll look at four concepts that should inform your financial decisions as your hair greys and your joints stiffen.

These are easy concepts to understand.

But they will not be easy to implement.

But you didn’t decide to read something on last-minute retirement planning because you expected easy and painless steps.

You know you’re not ready for retirement, and you’re long past believing that life comes easy.

Because you, my friend, are not a kid anymore.

And that, after all, is why you’re reading this.

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