Comparatively, 8 percent of lower wage earners contributed this much. And only 17 percent of the highest earners in the survey (households making $75,000 and above) elected to put the same amount of their salaries away for a rainy day.
“Middle-class Americans (have) to do the saving, because nobody is going to do it for them,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “They don’t have the six-figure income to fall back on” for expenses, including household emergencies, long-term health care, children’s education or their own retirement.
In contrast, people between 18 and 29 years old — the youngest group in the survey — were the most likely to save relatively little: 37 percent said they save 5 percent or less. Another 18 percent said they save nothing at all.
“They don’t see a correlation between where they are now and where they will be,” independent budgeting expert Tiffany Aliche says.
They also might not trust the system, after watching their parents’ retirement plans drop in value during and following the Great Recession, says Kate Holmes, a CFP professional and founder of Belmore Financial.
“Seeing that loyalty doesn’t work … that that kind of job security doesn’t work” has led many young people to question whether they should invest heavily in a traditional retirement account, like a 401(k), and instead, redirect funds toward a “side hustle” that bolsters their short-term and long-term coffers, she says.
For example, “you can invest in real estate, so that provides you the cash flow and more income later,” Holmes says.