The results of two recent surveys on retirement savings sound like the opening of a joke: We’ve got good news and bad news.

The good news, according to new data from Bankrate.com, shows more Americans are getting better at actually putting aside money for retirement.

The percentage of people who have increased their contributions in the past year has almost doubled since 2011 to about 29%. Just under half of respondents said they’re saving about the same as last year.

The bad news: Another survey shows Iowa isn’t necessarily setting the curve.

The statewide survey by the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education showed half of Iowans feel they aren’t really planning or saving for retirement the way they should be. Interviewing 500 Iowans, researchers found about a third have less than $5,000 saved or invested for retirement (excluding home value).

The survey also exposed an opportunity for financial assistance: About 40% of people said they have no investments at all and don’t really know how to go about investing the money they do have.

More than a third of respondents agreed with the statement: I am so far behind in saving or investing for retirement, I would be embarrassed to meet with a financial counselor or planner.

That’s troubling. Knowing how many adults struggle today with understanding savings and investing underscores the need for financial literacy in schools.

Other notable findings from the statewide survey include:

  • 39% of Iowans are planning to live off of Social Security in retirement.
  • 51% are currently carrying credit card debt.
  • 24% said they do not have enough money to save or invest in their retirement.

Back to the good news: Millennials are starting to get it.

Nationwide, it was people in their 30s who were most likely to have increased the amount they regularly put toward retirement.

That’s huge — especially for someone young. The power of compounding interest is the biggest ally of retirement savings. Financial experts say even increasing your savings by 1% per year is beneficial.

Meanwhile, 16% nationwide have actually decreased their retirement savings. Something like 12% said they just hadn’t “gotten around to” adjusting their contribution.

It’s time to get around to it.

Employers can help by encouraging workers through benefits programs and educational programs. Government can do its part by creating stronger tax incentives for people to save for retirement, and by making it clear that simply relying on Social Security is not a successful retirement plan.

Here’s another tip from financial experts: Don’t let the ups and (more importantly) the downs of the stock market scare you off of investing. Market volatility can be healthy over the long term.

Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, the group that completed the Iowa survey, put together a number of resources at wi65.org/Iowa.

Local banks, credit unions and financial advisers can offer help as well. If someone you know hasn’t begun retirement planning, urge them to begin today. Saving for the future is important at any age.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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