Saving and investing early is an important component of any retirement strategy, but many baby boomers have found themselves playing a game of catch up, and they have a message to younger generations: learn from our mistakes.

Whether retirement is right around the corner or far off in the horizon, creating and executing a savings plan is crucial. But it’s also important to review a savings strategy periodically to make sure it still fits under your personal financial circumstances and the current economic climate.

ING U.S.’s recent survey, Retirement Income Redefined, highlights some potential discrepancies in retirement planning regulations and practices, and shows how the new economic is fundamentally redefining retirement.

Rich Linton, president of Individual Markets for ING U.S. Retirement Solutions, shared the following points from the company’s recent study and what boomers can learn from it:

Boomer: What new rules have been issued that could change the way we plan for retirement? 

Linton: The Labor Department recently issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking regarding lifetime income illustrations, which would require retirement plan providers/sponsors to include on participant account statements an estimate of their monthly retirement income – based on both current account balances and expected future balances at normal retirement age.

Boomer: What sacrifices would pre retirees have to give up now to have a financially-secure retirement? 

Linton: An overwhelming number of respondents, 80%, acknowledged that they would be willing to give up some of their spending money today in turn for some guaranteed income at a later point in life. This validates the concept that consumers acknowledge the need for and importance of having a secure, reliable income upon retirement.

That security for tomorrow does require a bit of financial sacrifice today. The amount of sacrifice depends on each individual’s unique situation and expectations for their desired retirement lifestyle. To some, it could mean giving up that expensive daily latte for an instant cup at home. For others, it could mean pushing off an expensive vacation for a simple "day-cation" instead.

Every consumer’s situation is different, so it’s important for individuals to understand their unique retirement needs (basic utilities, food, healthcare, etc.); wants (ability to travel, not having to work in retirement, etc.); and wishes (the legacy they want to leave their beneficiaries). Once these points are understood, developing a personalized plan can help better identify the level of sacrifice needed today to reach those objectives and desired level of retirement income tomorrow.

Boomer: What discrepancies in retirement planning did your study find? 

Linton: The study underscored some plausible gaps between the perceptions and realities many people may face with respect to their own retirement security. For example, one-third of respondents who were already in retirement confirmed that they were experiencing a lower standard of living than during their working years based on their monthly income.

However, their pre-retiree counterparts were surprisingly confident about the future — only a small number, 8%, expected a lower standard of living when they reached retirement. In fact, a significant majority, 68%, believed they would have enough to maintain the same or more comfortable lifestyle. This suggests that pre-retirees are unaware of what it takes to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.

Boomer: What new savings plans are being offered to get pre retirees through retirement?

Linton: The issue of retirement readiness and generating retirement income is extremely important today for working Americans. There are a number of options available in the marketplace today for turning savings into a reliable income stream in retirement. One growing trend is for employers to offer such an option inside their 401(k) plan—the primary savings vehicle for most working Americans.

In-plan retirement income options take advantage of the automatic features that make workplace saving so easy. Participants have the ability to direct some of their money in such a way that they build critical retirement savings in the early years and then, over time, these savings automatically convert into a guaranteed income benefit for life, similar to a defined benefit plan.

Boomer: Is it true the later you were born the more you will pay in payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security?

Linton: Yes, the later you were born the more you will pay for Social Security and Medicare. The primary reason is the increasing longevity of the population. As people live longer, they will spend more time in the workforce and will pay more for health care and Social Security taxes. That said, the good news is that they should receive more in benefits. That is, of course, unless the government reduces benefits for certain groups.

As an example, the Congressional Budget Office recently projected that each successive generation—depending on when they were born—will pay more in lifetime payroll taxes and receive more in lifetime Medicare benefits. Over their lifetime, beneficiaries born in the 1940s would, on average, receive about $160,000 in benefits, net of premiums paid, and pay about $45,000 in payroll taxes. Those born in the 1950s would receive about $205,000 in benefits and pay $60,000 in payroll taxes. Those born in the 1960s would receive an average of $270,000 in benefits and pay about $65,000 in payroll taxes.