Well, you know, retirement is not always all it is cracked up to be! No, seriously. I am sorry to hear your fund is not doing so well. Perhaps you should consider pulling your money out and trying a different fund. A lot of banks offer CDs that get really good interest if you leave the money in there long enough. The time frame is often three to five years, but if you are saving for retirement, then chances are that you will want the money to be saved longer than that, anyway.
As for the cardboard box, maybe you are being a little bit dramatic there. Unless you plan to rent all your life, surely you will have a house pretty much paid for by the time you retire. Most house loans are only 20 years nowadays. Even if you are already 40, a twenty year loan will be paid off by the time you are 60.
Nevertheless, retirement is a good goal for which to work, and there is no doubt that it will take work to get to have a retirement like most people imagine. I am not really certain, though, that retirement is something today’s workers can really reasonably expect to achieve. With prices rising and wages not keeping up, and the sure demise of social security as a supplement, it seems that most people are going to find themselves having to work right up until they cannot physically continue to do so. I, personally, have no illusions of being able to retire, at the moment. Even though I am only about 20 years from the expected retirement age, I simply do not have enough savings to be able to forsee a time when I can stop working for income. I hope your experience is different from mine!