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Individuals can take action on their own retirement

For all the gloom surrounding Americans' retirement outlook, there's hope for improvement, and individuals can take action on their own.

Congress is beginning to look at ways to force Americans to save more. One idea is automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans. Another is a mechanism that would diversify a worker's 401(k) investment choices automatically, making the complicated financial selections that many Americans can't or won't.

"Why should you learn to build a television set? You just want to watch it. It's more efficient to get some help," said William Sharpe, the winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in economics.

In addition, Sharpe advises savers to focus on the "old simple virtues." Identify your retirement needs by using one of the popular financial Web site guides. Diversify your investment portfolio to minimize risk. One tip: Indexed stock-market funds are safer than individual stocks for hands-off investors, Sharpe said.

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For more information, see the following Web sites:

_Center for Retirement Research, www.bc.edu/centers/crr

_Worry Free Investing, www.worryfreeinvesting.com

_ ARP, www.aarp.org/money

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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