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Here's how much Americans have saved for retirement

Twenty20

Americans are still struggling to save enough for the future.

A worrisome 22% have less than $5,000 in savings earmarked for retirement, according to new data from Northwestern Mutual's 2019 Planning & Progress Study. Another 5% have between $5,000 and $24,999 put away and only 16% have saved $200,000 or more.

Additionally, 46% of respondents say they don't know how much they have saved for retirement.

The numbers are just as bleak when divided by generation. Although many baby boomers, defined here as those ages 55 to 73, are nearing retirement, 17% have less than $5,000 in retirement savings.

Many Americans are aware of their lack of savings, yet few are doing anything about it. On average, survey respondents say there's a 45% chance they'll outlive their savings, yet 41% haven't taken any actions to address the issue.

That's startling, Emily Holbrook, senior director of planning at Northwestern Mutual, tells CNBC Make It. "People absolutely should be taking steps," she says. "They need to become educated, they need to meet with a financial advisor and discuss their options."

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This gap in retirement savings also likely relates to the fact that Americans plan to work longer and retire later. Nearly half of survey respondents across all generations expect to retire after age 65, Northwestern Mutual found. For boomers, things are even more extreme: 68% of respondents say they expect to retire after the age of 65.

For many people, working longer is a choice, the survey found. A number of Americans believe they'll be able to take on second careers or side jobs in order to continue to bring in income later in life, Holbrook says.

However, planning to stay in the workforce isn't always a reliable option. Northwestern Mutual found that when people retire at a different age than they plan to, it's typically earlier, rather than later. "It's generally due to health issues or layoffs — things out of their control — which really compounds this [retirement savings] issue," Holbrook explains.

"While people think, 'I'm not in a good position and my solution will be to continue working,' that isn't always an actionable choice that they have."

While people think, 'I'm not in a good position and my solution will be to continue working,' that isn't always an actionable choice that they have.
Emily Holbrook
senior director of planning at Northwestern Mutual

To make sure you'll be able to cover your expenses in retirement, it's key to start saving and investing as early as possible. For many Americans, the easiest way to start is by contributing part of your paycheck directly into your employer's 401(k) plan. If you never see the money, you won't miss it.

If your employer doesn't offer a 401(k) plan, you can look into other tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicles, such as a Roth IRA or traditional IRA.

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