Knowing how to save for retirement doesn’t have to be a big secret. In fact, it seems even when people know what to do they sometimes sabotage their saving.

A new Wall St. Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll finds that one-quarter of adults actively planning for retirement have withdrawn money early from those accounts. Generally not a good idea.

The reasons people give for withdrawing money are because a family member loses a job or they want to put a down payment on a home.

People who earn $35,000 or less per year take out money more frequently than those earning more. Those earning $50,000 or more are the least likely to make early withdrawals.

Perhaps more troubling is that only 35 percent of those earning $35,000 or less are actually planning for retirement. But is it really any surprise in this economy? As food and transportation costs rise there’s less money to save.

When people do take early withdrawals, nearly one third of them CANNOT afford to pay them back. Another 45 percent either cannot pay them back or cannot afford to do so.

Still, a majority of those who participated in the survey expect to rely on Social Security for their retirement income. This seems ironic with so much news of Social Security running out of money before Generations X or Y retire.

Even if you can just afford to save $50 a month toward retirement it’s worth it. Every little bit helps.

The survey included 2,897 adults age 18 and above and was conducted between March 6 and 10 this year.

April 29, 2008.