When we say, as we often do, "You will never retire," while pointing directly at you and waving a fistful of dollar bills and burning an American flag, it is not meant to be taken as a jeer; rather, it is our way of soberly guiding your attention to the distressing probability that you, personally, have little chance of attaining the type of comfortable retirement afforded to earlier generations, and will probably spend your "golden years" desperately trying to live off your meager backyard garden, until you grow too decrepit to work it, at which point you will, in all likelihood, simply starve.

Lest you accuse us of alarmism, may we gently take your hand and sit you down and instruct you to read this WSJ story today about an annual survey of Americans and their retirement prospects:

Fifty-seven percent of U.S. workers surveyed reported less than $25,000 in total household savings and investments excluding their homes, according to a report to be released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Only 49% reported having so little money saved in 2008.

The survey also found that 28% of Americans have no confidence they will have enough money to retire comfortably-the highest level in the study's 23-year history.

Americans are an optimistic bunch. If 57% of working households have less than $25K in savings, then one would think that the level of those who have no confidence they will have enough money to retire would be... at least 57%. Of course, you can't rule out all those people who expect to have their retirement needs provided for by large inheritances, blockbuster novels, and/ or winning lottery tickets. It could happen. That would be the "plus" column, subtitled "Possibilities." Over in the "minus" column, subtitled "Absolute Certainties," we would put the death of pensions and of the American Dream. And also the fact that people are living longer now, which will—O! Bitter irony!—only extend the non-earning portion of your lifespan, stretching your meager-to-nonexistent savings even farther. Masses of Americans will no doubt respond to their nigh-hopeless situation by flocking into the stock market, helping to inflate the next bubble, which will crash and burn just in time for the planned retirement date of millions of temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

This is a good topic about which to laugh, to keep from crying.

[WSJ. Photo: Flickr]