By Amy Baldwin, The Charlotte Observer, N.C. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 31--As President Bush prepares to overhaul the nation's old-age safety net, a key question emerges: Just how important is Social Security to the financial well-being of most retirees?
That depends, of course, on how well a retiree has planned.
Financial planners have long likened a financially sound retirement strategy to a well-balanced stool. Social Security, they said, was meant to be just one leg supporting that stool -- along with employer pensions and private savings.
But traditional pensions have long been eroding, replaced by 401(k)s, Individual Retirement Accounts and other employee-directed plans. As for private savings, the rate at which Americans socked away money fell in November to a scant 0.3 percent.
That makes Social Security increasingly important for a growing number of workers, financial experts say.
In 2003, Social …