Many Americans will spend their “Golden Years” of retirement scrimping and sacrificing, according to a new study by the Wall Street Journal, but there are ways to rescue yourself from a merger retirement.

Financial security expert and bestselling author Pamela Yellen said a “combination of economic and demographic forces has left older Americans with bigger bills and less money to pay them.”

The study by the Wall Street Journal suggests, Americans approaching retirement age face:

  • Stagnant incomes: Median incomes, including Social Security and retirement fund receipts, haven’t risen in years.
  • High debt: They are often paying off children’s educations and dipping into savings to help aging parents.
  • Paltry 401(k) retirement funds: The median income is under $8,000 a year for a household of two.

“What does a reduced lifestyle in retirement look like? It’s not pretty,” Yellen said. “You may have to work multiple low-wage jobs, give up things you now consider necessities, skip vacations and even haircuts. You may have to appeal to your children to help out.”

Social Security will “become depleted and unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2034,” according to the fund’s trustees. And many public-sector workers who expected a pension for life are living with uncertainty as cash-strapped governments consider pension cuts to cover their massive unfunded liabilities.

So what can you do about it? Yellen offers this 5-Step Plan to Protect Yourself:

  1. Don’t put your head in the sand – that won’t make the problem go away.
  2. When calculating how much you’ll need in retirement, use the currently recommended savings withdrawal rate of 2.8%, and assume you’ll live to at least age 95 because there’s a good chance you or your partner will.
  3. Don’t rely too much on volatile, unpredictable government-sponsored retirement accounts for income in retirement. If you don’t know the minimum guaranteed value of your savings when you want to tap into them, you don’t have a plan – you’re gambling.
  4. Don’t rely too much on Social Security or a public pension fund, for the reasons discussed above.
  5. Save more in guaranteed, safe and liquid financial vehicles. Pamela advocates The Bank On Yourself wealth-building strategy. It allows people to know the guaranteed minimum value of their savings at any point in time.

“These plans have grown in value every single year for more than 160 years and have never had a losing or stagnant year,” she said. “They do not go backward when the market crashes.”

It’s possible that one or all of these steps may help you as you get ready or pre-plan for those Golden Years of retirement. When in doubt it is best to check with your financial institution or financial planner before making any decisions about your personal finances.

Your retirement years should be some of the best years of your life so prepare accordingly and they should be!