Surviving Retirement

For all the noise surrounding the subject, you'd think the baby boom generation is the only one worried about retirement.

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Try asking a twentysomething (Generation Y). Many of them haven't found a job since graduating from college, live at home, and carry crushing six-figure student loan debt.

Or talk to a thirtysomething (Generation X). They have small children, bought real estateduring the peak years of the housing bubble, and haven't seen a good pay raise, if any, in half a decade.

Social Security?You must be joking. Medicare? Yeah, right. Corporate pension? Stop! Stock marketinvestments? Fingers crossed.

If retirement in America was once supported by a three-legged stool — Social Security, house, pension — it is now a very shaky perch.

Generation Y may have more in common with the generation that came of age as the New Deal arrived and changed the nation's economic model.

Some baby boomers (the oldest ones), on the other hand, will most likely enjoy the retired life of their parents, who paid into Social Security all their lives and reaped all or most of its benefits — assuming they don't live too long.

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Retirement, especially in the global economyof the 21st century in which jobs are scarce and life-prolonging medical procedures plentiful, may be the financial challenge of our lives.

In launching our three-month-long special report, we thought it useful to start by comparing the retirement prospects of Americans with those of citizens in other wealthy nations, along with portraits of the challenges facing three American generations (Boomer, X, and Y).

Starting next week, we'll take a deeper look at retirement in America — financial advice aspects relating to saving, investing, working, coping — along with polls on a variety of important subjects.