A growing number of Americans say they're not putting away as much as they should for retirement, a shift in attitude that experts believe could lead to improved saving practices in the future.

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A survey released Thursday by Fidelity Investments, the Boston-based retirement services provider, found that 83 percent of workers recognized that they were saving too little for retirement, up from 78 percent a year ago.

"That's a tremendous jump in awareness," said Robert L. Reynolds, Fidelity Investments' vice chairman and chief operating officer. "And I think it is only going to continue to grow over time."

He said that such a "mind-shift" could result in workers taking action to improve their retirement preparedness.

The survey found that American workers currently were saving at a rate that would allow them to replace about 57 percent of their preretirement income after they stop working, The figure — which factors in Social Security benefits, pensions, workplace savings and private savings — means that a family living on $50,000 would see its income drop to about $30,000 in retirement.

"That's a very stiff pay cut to adjust to ... if current savings patterns do not change," Reynolds said.

Most expects suggest that families should aim to replace 85 percent of preretirement income for a comfortable retirement.

Reynolds said he was heartened that more than half of Americans took some action over the past six months to improve their retirement readiness, from increasing contributions to company-sponsored 401(k) retirement accounts to seeking advice.

But three-quarters of those surveyed said that the recent sharp run-up in fuel prices was affecting their ability to save — or to save more.

The survey also found that workers "grossly underestimated" the cost of health care in retirement. Those surveyed said they thought it would cost about $80,000. That's well below the $200,000 Fidelity estimates will be needed.

"Workers haven't yet grasped the enormity of this cost," Reynolds said.

About half of those surveyed said they would work at least part-time in retirement to cover health care expenses, while nearly one-third said they'd retire later to preserve workplace health benefits.

The survey is conducted online twice a year with more than 2,000 full-time workers. The latest poll was conducted April 29-22 by Richard Day Research of Evanston, Ill.

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