Symptom: You save, pay your bills and cut back where you can, but there's still this uneasy sense that you're not doing enough.
Causes: Many of us have absorbed the message that our financial future is our personal responsibility. But retirement calculators ask questions that seem out of touch with the current economy ("typical annual raise"?) and spit back impossible-seeming goals. At the same time, the risks of taking a shortcut and making big mistakes with the stock market or a Madoff-like investment scam seem way too high.
Treatment: Make sure you're putting at least as much in your 401(k) as everyone else. Most employees save more than 8 percent of their annual salaries, and the average contribution in 2011 was $5,750, according to Fidelity Investments. No matter what comes up—college tuition, a cramped-feeling house—stick to your long-term strategy. The Associated Press reported that workers who routinely contributed to their Fidelity 401(k) plans for at least 10 years had saved an average of $179,100 by the end of 2011 (that's two and a half times more than 401(k) participants who may have invested more sporadically). If you're saving consistently and retirement is decades away, it's useless to panic. Consider this: Martin Kurtz, CFP, chairman of the board of the Financial Planning Association, once worked with a middle-class couple who were 50 years old with no savings. He put them on a strict budget for the next 17 years—at which point they'd saved enough to quit their jobs and start enjoying their golden years.