Roughly three out of every four small business owners believe that most Americans are financially unprepared for retirement, and it's a financial quandary that's reaching crisis proportions, according to survey released by Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Financial on Tuesday.

At the same time, only one in five of these same small businesses queried offer their employees a 401(k) or other employee self-funded retirement plan, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. for Nationwide Financial.

Harris Interactive Inc. conducted 501 online interviews of small business owners in the U.S. with one to 100 employees surveyed between August 9 and September 23, 2011. Results are weighted to be representative of U.S. companies with 1 to 100 employees with respect to number of employees.

According to the survey, few small businesses say they provide their employees access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan because they must reach a point of business maturity or critical mass to absorb the cost and administration of the current 401(k) retirement plan.

And only an estimated 11% of small business owners say they are likely to add an employee sponsored 401(k) plan within the next two years.

The reason? Nearly 70% of those small business owners say their business is too small and more than 50% say it's too expensive.

It's not that owners or employees don't want a plan. In fact, 37% of small business owners with more than six employees say they are under pressure from employees to offer a retirement plan. An estimated 78% of these owners surveyed say having a retirement plan is effective in helping to attract qualified employees.

"Our survey found that nearly half (46%) of small business owners were not aware or were unsure that an employee self-funded retirement plan could be offered without having to match employee contributions," said Anne Arvia, senior vice president of retirement plans for Nationwide Financial.

According to the survey, 71% of small business owners say it is important when selecting an employee self-funded retirement savings plan that it has flexibility to match or not match employee contributions. An estimated 62% say it's important that multiple employers can group together to pool resources and reduce administration costs.

Four in five owners say when selecting a plan it's important the plan has minimal amount of administration requirements and can be offered at a low price. Three in four owners say it's important that the plan can be converted to better meet their needs as their business grows.

Nationwide Financial is supporting the "SAVE Act,'' current legislation before Congress that encourages small businesses to pool together to offer Multiple Small Employer Plans (MSEP) that supporters of the act maintain are much less expensive than single-employer plans and simplify an employer's administrative requirements.

Sponsored by Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and David Reichert (R-Wash.), the SAVE Act allows small employers to reduce costs by pooling their resources under a single plan with easier administrative requirements.