Did you sock away at least 5 percent of your paycheck last year? If not, you might need to emulate some unexpected role models: Millennials are edging out their older counterparts when it comes to saving.
While only about half of adults 30 and older stash more than 5 percent of their income each year, 3 in 5 younger Americans are doing so, a Bankrate study found.
"The financial crisis came during millennials' formative years," said Bankrate.com's chief financial analyst, Greg McBride. "It instilled in them smart habits we haven't seen in awhile."
The survey also found that 29 percent of millennials are saving more than 10 percent of their incomes, slightly higher than a corresponding 28 percent for Americans overall. In general, that's an improvement over last year, when those figures were 22 percent for millennials and 24 percent for adults of all ages.
Saving a solid chunk of cash each year is especially crucial for young folks, said McBride, because they face unpredictable futures.
"They have the biggest retirement savings burden in history, with longer life spans, few pensions, uncertainty about Social Security and higher medical costs," he said.
While it is great news that adults — and millennials in particular — are improving savings behavior, Americans still have roadblocks to financial security. The Bankrate survey found that 1 in 5 people are putting aside nothing at all. And while saving 5 percent of your salary is certainly better than zilch, for younger workers that might only net out to between one or two thousand dollars: barely enough to cover a big medical bill.
"It's especially important to have at least a small cushion when you're young," said Jorge Padilla, a financial planner based in Miami. "An emergency fund can save you from a lot of headaches."
Americans of all ages can benefit from certain behavioral tricks that help grow account balances, he said, including automating savings from unexpected bonuses or pay bumps.
"When you get a raise, of say $5,000, take half of it and put it in your retirement fund, and enjoy only half of it right now," said Padilla. "Or if you find a way to cut your cable bill, instead of spending that extra cash, set up an automatic monthly deposit to a high-yield savings account."
Finding ways to save even just $100 each month can make a big difference, he said.
Some good news: Despite harboring plenty of money-related fears, millennials report overall feeling relatively secure financially, the Bankrate survey found. About 43 percent of younger adults said they feel better than a year ago regarding their financial situation.
Unfortunately, only 30 percent of those aged 30 to 49; 21 percent of those aged 50 to 64; and 9 percent of those 65 and older could say the same.