A survey that should frighten anyone who plans to retire someday was just released that shows many Americans are ill-prepared for their golden years. That’s the problem; exchange traded funds (ETFs) can be part of the solution.

The number of working Americans with virtually no retirement savings or nest egg to fall back on has grown. For three years in a row, the number of U.S .citizens with no retirement savings has grown as the confidence for being capable to save enough for retirement has shriveled. Chavon Sutton for CNN Money has these figures:

  • The percentage of workers who said they have less than $10,000 in savings grew to 43% in 2010, from 39% in 2009, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Pension plans and home values are not included. [401(k)s: The Last Hurdle.]
  • Workers who said they had less than $1,000 jumped to 27%, from 20% in 2009.
  • Confidence in ability to save enough for a comfortable retirement hovered at 16% of respondents, the second lowest point in the 20-year history of the survey.

Many Americans are forced to prolong their working years, as the outlook for the economy is changing and many workers have lost their retirement savings or watched it shrivel. People are facing a huge reality check that the possibility of retirement is getting smaller and some are struggling to make ends meet for today. [How ETFs Are Making Their Way Into Retirement Plans.]

The scary thing is that many people aren’t investing simply because they don’t have a lot of money, creating a vicious cycle. The books say “use bonds” for retirement, but those are paying next to nothing now. Factor in the possibility of a bond bubble fixing to burst and the next few years could ultimately punish retirees or those who are close to becoming one.

One solution is to become long-term oriented. What are your goals? How will you get there? As with any plan to reach a goal, break it down into little bits to make it seem less daunting, and incorporate ETFs into your strategy. By using ETFs with a simple, sound strategy like trend following, you can best position yourself to make your golden years a little more appealing. [How to Follow Trends.]

For more stories about retirement, visit our retirement category.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.