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Here's a four-letter word that can change the value of your net worth when retirement time rolls around

By Dian Vujovich

It was great to see Mr. Zuckerberg smiling after FaceBook (FB) went public on Friday. His smile seemed even broader in photos taken after his marriage the very next day to long-time girlfriend, Pricilla Chan. I’m hoping the rest of their lives is as charmed as the first few decades appear to have been.

Going forward, if there’s one thing this young couple doesn’t have to worry much about it’s funding their retirement. Too bad the same isn’t true for many of us.

From where I sit, saving for one’s retirement ought to begin right after baby leaves the womb. Maybe before. Of course that will depend upon whether or not you’ve been lucky enough to have a smart before-baby comes shower-giver who understands that baby needs plenty of diapers to make it through life: Nappies aren’t cheap no matter what age or stage of life you’re in.

Starting a savings account —that eventually grows into one where some monies can then be ear-market for rainy day emergencies as well as near- and long-term investing plans— has to become a habit for everyone. And as boring as that may sound, if started at a young age, and practiced regularly, the savings habit will eventually become root in one’s life: The best route to a sound financial future.

It’s no secret that folks in the U.S aren’t into saving much of anything except stuff to fill up their garages. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce: Bureau of Economic Analysis, through March 1, 2012, Americans were saving 3.8 percent of their disposable income. That’s up from 3.7 percent reported on February 1, and certainly not as low as it was in 2007 where the personal savings rate was round 2 percent. Worse still was in 2001 when it hit 0.9 percent in October.

Oh, if it were only 1970s again. That’s the decade when we saved between 8 and 12 percent of our disposable income. That’s also when a company’s defined benefit plan was what provided its vested employees with a decent chunk of their retirement income. Imagine that—a fat savings account, a Social Security check plus a company pension. Those were the days when one could happily tap dance on retirement’s three-legged stool.

Yes, we’ve come a long way in 40 years if one is counting stuff. But when the focus turns to saving, it’s quite clear that our long-term savings habits and current retirement plans and schemes shows that the good days really are behind us.

So what’s all of that got to do with FB? Pretty much nothing. The long-term future of that company’s financial strength has yet to be determined so who knows what kind of play it really is (although I think it might be an interesting at $15 a share—Apple was).

As for us and our retiring tomorrow’s, the four-letter word we’d be wise to share with our kids, grandchildren, friends and cohorts is “save.”

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