Here’s how many working Americans didn’t save anything for retirement over the past 2 years

How 401(k) retirement accounts changed everything

Five percent of all working Americans contributed absolutely nothing towards retirement either this year or last, according to a recent Bankrate Financial Security Index survey. Although Bankrate reports that that percentage has decreased by half since 2015, the number of Americans with little to nothing saved for retirement, or in general, remains alarming.

Overall, many Americans are moving in the right direction: Over the last year, 23 percent of all U.S. adults increased their retirement savings. Millions are ramping up their 401(k) plans.

Millennials between the ages of 18 and 26 proved the most likely to have started saving more, with 30 percent reporting that they've increased their contributions in the last year. That uptick stems in part from a number of economic factors, including a strong job market and low unemployment rate.

"Working Americans are increasing their retirement savings more and more as the economic recovery continues, whether by saving the same percentage of higher earnings or a higher percentage of the same earnings," says Greg McBride, CFA and Bankrate's chief financial analyst.

How millennials should prepare for retirement

According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 35 percent of all adults in the U.S. have only several hundred dollars in their savings accounts and 34 percent have zero. Only 15 percent have over $10,000 stashed away.

If you're behind, it's not too late. Start funding a retirement account, even if you're only able to put away one percent of your salary each month.

After all, 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 put more away, whether for retirement, emergency expenses or their children's educations.

Here are signs that you are on track for early retirement

The simplest way to jump-start your retirement fund is to sign up for your employer's 401(k) plan and take full advantage of any company match, which essentially gives you free money. Regardless of whether your employer offers a 401(k), you can contribute to a Roth IRA or traditional IRA. Those are individual retirement accounts that offer tax breaks.

Next, set up your accounts to auto-increase by at least one percent each year. "You're unlikely to miss the money, and it'll help build your cache that much faster," Bankrate points out.

While saving for retirement might seem less important than some of your others financial goals, getting yourself settled for the future is still imperative. The earlier you start saving and the more you're able to put away the better off you'll be in the long run.

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How 401(k) retirement accounts changed everything
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