Advice for the families

To help the Steins, Mendells and Wrights get their finances on track, and stop comparing themselves to their neighbors, Money Magazine turned to financial planners Neil Kauffman of Kauffman & Drebing in Philadelphia and Chris Cordaro of Regent Atlantic Capital in Chatham, N.J., as well as career coach Nancy Collamer, who runs Jobsandmoms.com.

Boost savings
The Mendells:
Boost savings
Both Kauffman and Cordaro say the Mendells need to boost their retirement savings and fast. That means cutting back on dinners out and reining in some of their purchases. That's especially true since both Dave and Emily want to retire early.

Based on their current savings, the Mendells will have only enough set aside by the time they're 60 to fund nine years of retirement, even with Dave's pension.

Kauffman suggests that they sock away at least 10 percent of their income, up from 5 percent now. And they should shift most of the money out of the cash investments they have in their retirement accounts and into a diversified mix of stock funds.

Even though they're admittedly averse to risk, cash investments won't provide the kind of growth they need in their portfolio to beat inflation over time. As for the kids' 529 college accounts, Cordaro recommends contributing an additional $520 a month.

The Steins

The Mendells

The Wrights

Future plans
Call it peer pressure, but meeting the right people can help you spend and save wisely. (more)
A Roth IRA for your teen could create a millionaire in the making. But how do you convince her it's a good idea? (more)
Starting a savings plan in your 20s could put you on the right track for an early retirement. Just make sure you've got the right mix, says Money Magazine's Walter Updegrave. (more)
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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.