36% of adults lack retirement savings, including many 65 or older

The Social Security Administration's main campus in Woodlawn, Md.
(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

More than a third of American adults have no retirement savings, and 14% of those ages 65 and older also haven’t put money away yet, according to a new study.

The low savings rate for people at or approaching retirement age is alarming, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for, which conducted the survey. The results were released Monday.

About a quarter — 26% — of those ages 50 to 64 haven’t started saving for retirement, the survey said; the figure was 33% of people 30 to 49 years old.


Overall, 36% of those 18 years or older have not started saving for retirement, according to the survey of 1,003 adults.

“They still have time to start, but they still have to save so much as a percentage of their income to make up for the years they weren’t saving that it puts them in a tough spot,” McBride said.

Savers have been hurt in recent years by historically low interest rates caused by the Federal Reserve’s attempts to stimulate the economy after the Great Recession.

Fed policymakers have kept the central bank’s benchmark short-term rate near zero since late 2008 and have bought billions of dollars’ worth of bonds to push down mortgage and other long-term interest rates.

The moves have kept rates on savings accounts and certificates of deposit low, with both paying about 1% or less, according to

But stock prices have soared during the last five years, helping increase the value of many 401(k) plans that were hit hard by the financial crisis.


The survey’s findings were not all bad, McBride said. It indicated that younger people are starting to save earlier than in past generations.

Twice as many adults who are 30 to 49 years old started saving when they were in their 20s instead of waiting until their 30s, the survey said. Seniors were just as likely to have waited until they were in their 40s to start saving as they were to have started in their 20s, McBride said.

Greater awareness of the financial problems of Social Security is a main reason younger people have started earlier on their retirement plans, he said. Automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans also has helped people to start saving earlier.

“The burden for retirement savings is increasingly upon us as individuals, and people are aware of that,” McBride said.

Still, 69% of those 18 to 29 years old have no retirement savings, according to the survey.

Adults who haven’t begun saving should start now, even if it involves putting away just a small amount of money each week, McBride said.

“There’s no better time than the present to start saving for retirement,” he said. “This isn’t money that’s gone. You’ve just put it aside for your future self instead of spending it on your present self.”

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