If you're overwhelmed by the financial responsibilities of day-to-day life and more focused on making it to the end of the month than on the possibility of being able to save for the distant future, you're not alone. In fact, the vast majority of Americans have under $1,000 saved and half of all Americans have nothing at all put away for retirement.
"Nearly half of families have no retirement account savings at all," the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reported, even in savings vehicles such as IRAs and 401(k)s. The median for U.S. families is just $5,000, and the median for families with some savings is $60,000.
Even older workers who can see retirement on the horizon aren't prepared for it. The median savings for families whose wage earners are between 50 and 55 years old is only $8,000. For those who are between 56 and 61, it's $17,000, reports the Economic Policy Institute.
For contrast, here's how much experts say you should have saved at every age. By midlife, your cushion should be well-padded, if you want to be able to retire, says Kimmie Greene, money expert at Intuit and spokeswoman for Mint.com. Here's her advice:
By age 50, have five times your annual salary saved.
By age 55, have six times your annual salary saved.
By age 60, have seven times your annual salary saved.
The discrepancy between what workers know they should do and what they manage to do may be why so many Americans' No. 1 financial regret involves not saving enough: A whopping 46 percent of adults surveyed by Bankrate about their biggest money mistakes wish they had squirreled more away, whether for retirement, emergency expenses or their children's educations.
Given that less than 13 percent of Americans have pensions — though as recently as 25 years ago, that figure was 38 percent — and, for millions of U.S. workers, "the grand 401(k) experiment has been a failure," how will seniors cope? Some expect to rely more on Social Security, Gallup reports, though that was always intended to be a supplement, not a primary source of income.
Others expect to rely on help from their next generation.
According to the Natixis U.S. Investor Survey, 24 percent of baby boomers expect that "contributions from children" will play an important role in funding their retirement. No word on how the famously cash-poor millennials are anticipating handling that expense, or even whether they've been warned.
This article has been revised and updated.