More than a fifth of American workers admit that they have done absolutely nothing to plan for their retirement, with most waiting until they are at least in their mid-thirties before the reality starts to sink in.
An online poll by the Wall Street Journal of more than 4,000 people has found that while nine out of 10 adults say they plan to retire at some point, more than one in five has not done anything about it.
Singletons are most likely to be in denial about retirement, with four out of 10 yet to start planning.
In fact the average age for the message to start to get through that you need to be putting something aside for retirement is 33, the poll found.
The most common first step – cited by nearly three out of 10 – is to start paying into an employer or occupational pension scheme.
More than a fifth said they had also started a separate retirement savings account and a similar percentage was investing in taxable stocks, bonds, mutual funds or annuities.
Just a tenth said they had been to see a financial adviser or other professional to develop a retirement plan.
Unsurprisingly, the older the worker the more likely they were to be planning for their retirement.
Those aged 45 to 54 were the most active with the things they are doing to prepare for retirement.
Of all the age groups, they are most likely to be working with an advisor (15 per cent) and planning the type of work they intended to do when they retired (18 per cent).
Natalie Jobity, vice president of financial services at Harris Interactive, which carried out the poll for the newspaper, said: "These results are consistent with other research we have done on consumer retirement planning.
"People simply are not taking retirement planning as seriously as they should and quite a significant proportion still think that social security will be there as an income source when they retire.
"This is why getting advice from a financial professional is so important yet so few are tapping into that resource," she added.
Those with a college degree and those with the highest incomes were the most active in retirement preparation, the survey also found.
Seven out of 10 college graduates and three quarters of those with an income over $75,000 had begun planning, compared with half of the overall population.
College graduates and high earners were also twice as likely to be working with a financial planner on retirement needs.
Conversely, those with just a high school education or less were least likely to have started planning for retirement, with just 35 per cent of respondents having done so.
This group was also most likely to claim they did not intend to retire, while a third of those earning less than $35,000 said they had not started to plan for retirement.