Are You Doomed to Be a Never-Retiree?

Never retire
Never retire

Do you really want to work until the day you die? Like it or not, an alarming number of workers think they'll have to -- and that number is rising.

A recently released study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute reveals a major trend toward working longer before retirement. According to its latest figures, more than a quarter of all workers who are at least 50 years old expect to retire at age 70 or later, with 5% who expect that they'll have to work until they're 80. Those figures are all up significantly from 2006.

But even worse, one in six Americans think that they'll never be able to retire.

Although that figure is down from the depths of the recession, it's still a sobering reflection of just how ill-prepared most workers are for figuring out their finances during their golden years.

It's Not a Choice -- It's Reality

For most workers, the decision to keep working isn't much of a decision. It just reflects financial reality.

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Over the past 30 years, many retiree-wannabes have seen the legs cut out from under their plans to retire. Social Security pays out only enough to support a minimum-wage lifestyle. Many companies have replaced the monthly pensions they used to pay with 401(k) plans that put the responsibility for saving for retirement squarely onto their workers' shoulders -- often at times when they were least able to carry the extra burden.

Even those who set aside money in their retirement accounts month after month have seen the fruits of their labors shrivel. The markets haven't been kind for the last 10 years. After having high expectations from the strong bull markets of the 1980s and 1990s, many investments have produced hardly any return at all in the past decade.

With all the uncertainty both in the U.S. and internationally in places like Europe, you can't count on those retirement dreams magically coming back.

Set the Date and Save for It

As discouraging as this study is, there's an even scarier elephant in the room: Many workers won't be able to work as long as they want. So don't let the study's results stop you from taking every step you can to protect your own financial security. You may well need every penny down the road.

For more on managing your money for (and during) your golden years, see:

Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is still naive enough to think he'll retire someday. You can follow him on Twitter here.