As part of the predictable end-of-the-year burst of studies and reports, I’ve been struck by a number issued this week that suggest a strange juxtaposition.

That is, while Americans say they believe that their economic woes are beginning to wane, at long last, and they have an inkling of optimism for 2012, they also readily admit that they plan on doing nothing at all to restart their retirement planning.

Your Boomer clients are in the thick of things, but younger workers find themselves especially lost.

I would be a perfect example of this, I guess. I’m in the middle of what would generally be considered my peak earning years—good thing I opted for journalism as a career—but the contributions to my 401(k) were the first thing to get cut late last year when ends were no longer meeting.

Things stabilized for me by the middle of this year, but when I did some extremely basic jurisprudence on my 401(k), I discovered it had lost 10 percent in the previous month. I checked again this fall and the fund dropped another 20 percent in that period.

Those whose opinions I would normally trust on financial matters suggested I just keep throwing more money at what is obviously a losing portfolio and that “long-term equalization” would win out in the end. Rather, I’ve opted to invest in collectible Hummel figurines and a collection of stylish wristwatches, as those investments seem to be more tangible.

That last part isn’t exactly true. But the 401(k) story is, and suddenly I feel like that entire wave of soon-to-retire Boomers who saw their entire life savings decimated by the last three or four years of market fluctuation, and are also left to start from scratch. Without the 30 years of additional employment I’m just come to assume I’ll have to complete—and maybe more—before I could even consider retirement options.

So maybe that lack of optimism, on a national level, isn’t so ill-founded. And word that, beginning next year, 401(k) providers will be federally mandated to provide more clarity on their fees and administration charges, may also shine a little more light on a savings-for-dummies plan that hasn’t always lived up to its promises. Consider this all an opportunity for you and your clients in 2012: We need help, and you may be able to provide that assistance.