Americans saving more, but not for retirement

By MoneyTimes

Jul 31, 2015 03:55 AM EDT

A greater number of Americans are saving their hard-earned money, not for retirement but for emergencies.

According to an annual survey by financial research firm Hearts & Wallets, household savings in 2014 was at 5.5%, nearly a percentage point higher than the previous year.

But among households who could avail themselves of employer-sponsored retirement plans, only 56% joined, down four percentage points from 2013.

Savings that went into retirement plans such as 401(k) fell seven percentage points to 22%.

"Our research shows that the average saver was more focused on building an emergency fund than saving for retirement in the last year," Laura Varas, co-founder of Hearts & Wallets, told NBC News.

The survey, which polled 5,500 households, show that workers who opted to save money for emergencies rose 8 percentage points to 45% in 2014.

This all goes to show that Americans are not taking full advantage of retirement plans offered by employers.

Financial Engines, an investment advisory firm, says a quarter of employees missed out on receiving full company match last year. This translates to a loss of $1,336 a year in free money for an average worker.

Americans are going to regret this, said Diane Gallagher of American Century Investments, told The Street.

In American Century's survey of 2,031 workers, many admitted they wished they had saved enough for retirement. They found it more important than doing better with personal relationships or careers, or being a better human being.

Workers said they should have set aside more for retirement in the first five years of their working lives. They said they'd rather miss out on fun things today than have too little for their golden years.

"American workers understand the power of compounding, we've done a great job of telling them how important it is to start early," Gallagher said.

A big majority of respondents said a nudge from employers would go a long way in ensuring their financial security.

But an employer-sponsored retirement plan may no longer be enough.

"Contributing to an employer plan such as a 401(k) is a great start for retirement saving, but the more you can save for the future, the better," Thomas Walsh, an investment analyst with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Atlanta, told Main Street.

However, a recent survey of 1,000 workers by financial services firm Edward Jones show 45% of American workers do not have retirement savings.

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