Americans are saving more, just not in their employer-sponsored retirement plans, according to a new analysis by retirement market researcher Hearts & Wallets.
Average annual household savings increased almost a full percentage point to 5.5 percent last year, up from 4.6 percent in 2013, based on Hearts & Wallets’ annual survey of 5,500 U.S. households. (The personal savings rate this May was 5.1 percent, according to the latest release from the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis.) But the percentage of household savings that went into employer-sponsored retirements plans like 401(k)s fell 7 percentage points to 22 percent in 2014, and households participating in employer-sponsored plans declined to 56 percent last year from 60 percent in 2013.
“Our research shows that the average saver was more focused on building an emergency fund than saving for retirement last year,” said Laura Varas, co-founder of Hearts & Wallets. The percentage of households that said they set aside money to deal with unexpected expenses grew from 37 percent in 2013 to 45 percent in 2014.