Saving early and often is the key to not running out of money in retirement. (istock)

The trend is the same, but it seems the numbers are getting worse.

Seventy-one percent of Americans say they do not have enough retirement savings, according to a new national survey commissioned by Experian in collaboration with Get Rich Slowly (getrichslowly.org).

Especially worrisome: More than half of those surveyed, 54 percent, believe they will never pay off their debt fully.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more people are entering retirement with more debt than ever, especially mortgage debt. The CFPB says the percentage of homeowners 65 and older with mortgage debt increased from 22 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2011. Among homeowners 75 and older, the rate more than doubled, to 21.2 percent from 8.4 percent.

More from the survey:

  • 58 percent feel the same or less secure in their finances than last year
  • Lack of income is considered the main reason for financial woes, not fiscal behavior
  • 49 percent have credit card debt
  • 46 percent have less savings today than they expected they would five years ago.

Katie Ryan O’Connor, an editor at Get Rich Slowly, says several things surprised her. One was that 71 percent of people in the survey said they were not invested in the stock market, and 41 percent said they had no plans to invest in the future because of a lack of funds.

“This is huge opportunity to understand that there still remains a lot of fear and uncertainty when it comes to the stock market,” she says. “Some is well-earned. We went through recession. People lost pensions. They were subjected to predatory lending.”

For people with real fear of getting by day-to-day, there are simple steps they can take,” she says. “Putting aside $5 a week into an emergency fund will help you not turn to debt as a solution. People are going into retiement with a large amount of debt. That really hobbles you. Also, she says: “Get into the stock market in a safe and smart way.” She says everyone should immediately log into their company’s 401(k) website and up their contributions by 1 percent

“The key is not to panic,” O’Connor says. “Pretty much, we are all behind on retirement financial planning and investment. But that can’t be a paralyzing realization. I think taking a simple step, one foot after the other, is critical.”

Other news: 

After Wells Fargo, can you trust your bank?

Wells Fargo CEO pummeled on Capital Hill

Business experts review Wells Fargo’s turn in the hot seat

How much you need to earn to buy a house in these major cities

Question of the week: Do you expect you will enter retirement with debt (including a mortgage)?  Send comments to rodney.brooks@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Debt in retirement”

Last week’s question: Do you and your partner or spouse have joint or separate checking accounts? 
Magda Sobalvarro-Ochoa of Rockville, Md.: My husband and I have three accounts. His, mine and ours. It is a great way to keep track of expenses, while also allowing us a little room to indulge in our own creature comforts.  Before I got married, I heeded the words of my godmother who said “Always keep a little something for yourself.” It was the wisest piece of advice I got!

Linda Wallace of Severn, Md.: My husband and I have been married 42 years, and we’ve always had one checking account. That’s what my parents had (although it turned out my husband’s parents had separate accounts) and when we were first married we certainly didn’t have very much money. One time, over 20 years ago I almost insisted we have separate accounts. I’ve always been the shopper and spender in the family and my husband the saver. We’ve always had a budget, but different viewpoints — I want to know how much is left over after we pay our bills and saving to see what I could buy and my husband to see if we could save more!

For many years we seemed to have the same money arguments — me spending too much and my husband wanting it cut back. Finally I said we needed to get separate accounts and it made us have some wonderful conversations.  I agreed to be more mindful of my spending and he agreed to stop giving me grief over my shopping and spending decisions. I have to say I’ve always appreciated my husband’s insistence on money management — we are both now retired in our mid 60s with a federal pension (him) and a state teacher’s pension (me).

Leah Kaliher Williams, 24, of Saco, Maine: After marrying in May, my husband and I combined everything into the same checking account. After a few months of testing it out (and as Christmas approaches) we are starting to think we might also add separate checking accounts, so that it is easier to buy things for one another and know how much money is available for that kind of thing. We would continue to pay most things from a joint checking account.

Susan Carpenter of Carry, N.C.: My husband and I have both joint and separate accounts. Joint accounts (checking and brokerage) have held our household income for 34 years. Separate accounts and credit cards are for fun money, for which we answer to no one. I won’t say we’ve never argued about money, but separate accounts minimize the petty spats. Joint accounts and credit cards help keep us honest and above board about the big stuff. It’s much harder to keep secrets that way.

Fausto Zamorano of Alpharetta, Ga.:
We have most of our assets joint. Only times we considered separate was as an strategy to protect them from the possibility of legal exposure. Otherwise, we both own everything we built together despite of who “makes more money.” Might sound old to some, but when we got married we came into a covenant for life. Not just a legal agreement.

My most recent retirement columns:

5 things to do now to get ready for retirement

The art of keeping an eye on your aging parents

California is the latest state to try to help people save for retirement

When did retirement become a dirty word?

Michelle Singletary’s most recent columns

For federal workers, a chance to lock in life insurance

Trouble paying bills? Sent some financial rules and stick to them

The economy and the election

Write Brooks at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or rodney.brooks@washpost.com. On Twitter @Perfiguy. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to washingtonpost.com/business