Workers have new options and compelling reasons to live the American dream, which is financial independence in retirement. It was made easier by the signing of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. This has made it easier for millions of Americans to accumulate wealth through retirement savings programs.

Americans today are generally spending less, saving more and living longer than their predecessors. Increasing savings is essential for a longer lifespan. It is important that workers save as soon as possible. Time is your friend when it comes to financial planning.

An investment of $125 per month at a modest 5 percentage annual return can add up to $50,000 over 20 years, more that $100,000 over 30 years, and almost $200,000 over 40 years. You can make your money last longer if you save money for the future.

You will most likely grab a dime if you see it on the sidewalk. Many workers are wasting thousands of dollars by not signing up to tax-deferred savings plans offered by their employers. This is especially true if the employers offer matching funds. Problem is, some workers aren’t sure how to invest.

This problem is solved by the Pension Protection Act, which makes it easier for 401k-type plans to automatically enroll workers. Workers have the option to always be enrolled in 401(k)-type plans. “opt out,”They won’t, however “lose out”By not making a decision. The Department of Labor proposes rules to increase retirement savings by creating default investments that can be used for long-term retirement savings.

Here are some strategies that will help you to take control of your retirement.

* Participate in your employer’s retirement plan at work, and be sure to take advantage of matching contributions.

* Increase the amount you contribute to your 401(k) or other retirement plan each year.

* If you’re 50 or older, make additional contributions of up to $5,000 to catch up for years in which you did not put money into the plan.

* Be realistic about expenses in retirement to ensure that you do not outlive your savings. You should also consider prescription drugs and healthcare costs.

Elaine L. Chao is Secretary of Labor and Chairman of Board of Directors of Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Visit www.