And just as a workout regimen doesn't produce results overnight, systematically building up your emergency and retirement funds will take time. For example, let's say you're earning a $60,000 salary, and want to save up an emergency fund of $15,000 to $20,000 (six months of living expenses.) You'd probably have about $700 to work with each month.

You'd divvy that amount up (say, $400 for retirement and $300 for savings each month), says Ellen Derrick, a certified financial planner™ with LearnVest Planning Services. "It all depends on what you'd already saved in each area," she explains, "but this might take you a little more than five years."

Rest assured, like with most money goals, if you just get started, your numbers will grow.

No. 3: Start today

More than half of U.S. households are at risk of not having enough savings to count on in retirement, and the longer you wait, the harder it gets to grow your nest egg.

For example, at age 25, earning $35,000 a year, assuming the market returns 7 percent annually, you'll need to save about $400 a month to reach a million dollars by the time you retire at 65. But wait until you're 45, and to get that same million, you'll need to increase your monthly savings to more than $2,000 -- five times the amount you would have needed to save in your twenties (ouch!).

The ideal, of course, is to avoid the need to restart by never stopping in the first place. "You don't want to get on a yo-yo of starting and stopping saving for retirement every time you need to get your car serviced," says McNary. The people who save the most for retirement find a set amount to sock away every month, then increase the percentage they save over time.

If you have trouble putting the money away on your own, find an "accountability partner," says Bengds, a family member, friend, or financial adviser who can help you stick to your plan.

Remember, no matter how many times you get off course, every day is a new opportunity to reboot.

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