Here's how much the average young family has saved for retirement

Retirement in America is changing rapidly
Retirement in America is changing rapidly

Most American families, even those close to retirement, have little or no retirement savings.

Not surprisingly, younger families have less stashed away. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the mean retirement savings of a family between 32 and 37 years old is $31,644:

But that number doesn't tell the whole story. Since so many families have zero savings and since super-savers can pull up the average, the median savings, or those at the 50th percentile, may be a better gauge. The median for families between 32 and 37 is a scant $480:

How big should your nest egg be in your 30s? According to retirement-plan provider Fidelity Investments, to be financially ready to retire by 67, you should aim to have three times your salary saved by 40.

While this can sound daunting, if you're putting your money to work in your 20s, it's not as difficult as it sounds, thanks to compound interest.

The simplest starting point is to contribute to your 401(k) plan, if your employer offers one. If you don't have a retirement savings plan at work, you can contribute to other tax-advantaged accounts designed specifically for retirement, such as a traditional IRA, Roth IRA or myRA.

No matter the retirement savings vehicle you choose, the most important step is to open an account.

Next, follow these three steps so your money can grow over time:

1. Contribute as much of your income as possible. Most experts recommend setting aside 10% or more.

2. Automate your contributions. Have your employer do a payroll deduction or have your money taken out of your checking account and sent straight to your retirement account. After all, you can't spend money you never see.

3. Get in the habit of upping your savings consistently, either every six months, at the end of each year or whenever you get a raise. Again, if you make this automatic by setting up "auto-increase," you won't forget to up your contributions (or talk yourself out of setting aside a larger chunk).

Need some inspiration? Check out:

Here's how much you should save at every age
Here's how much you should save at every age