Half of American households can barely save a nickel

Brother, can you spare a nickel?

For roughly half of American households they answer is "barely," according to the results of a new survey by Bankrate.com. About half reported they are setting aside no more than 5 percent of their income in savings. One in five said they're not even able to save a penny.

The highest savings rates were reported by those in the middle of the income ladder; more than a third of households earnings between $50,000 – 75,000 said they're saving more than 10 percent of their incomes, a higher rate than those in the highest-income bracket.

Only a quarter of those surveyed are setting aside more than 10 percent of their incomes, including one in seven who said they are saving more than 15 percent of what they make.

The survey of a representative sample of adults was conducted by Princeton Data Source from March 5-8, 2015. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

The results echo similar studies of American households' struggle to set aside enough money to cover emergencies, or build a nest egg for retirement.

Last fall, a Harris poll conducted for Wells Fargo found that a third of respondents between 25 and 75—with a household median income of $63,000—weren't contributing anything a 401(k), an IRA or other retirement savings vehicle. Half of those over 50 said they won't even have enough money to "survive" on in retirement.

Gambling on the future?

The median amount saved was $20,000, which is down from $25,000 when the same survey was done in 2013. While they expect to need a median savings of $250,000 for retirement, respondents across all ages said they are saving a median amount of just $125 a month.

Those between the ages of 30 and 49 reported savings $200 a month, while those between 50 and 59 are putting away just of $78 a month for retirement.

More than half said they planned to "save later" for retirement in order to "make up for not saving enough now." Nearly three quarters said they should have started earlier, up from 65 percent when the poll was taken in in 2013. Only 28 percent of all age groups said have a written financial plan for retirement.