Despite the near decade-long economic boom in the U.S., 56% of American households are failing to save enough for retirement, according to results of a new study released Wednesday.

The study, commissioned by the

Consumer Federation of America


, also found the level of unpreparedness for retirement rose dramatically with lower-income households.

According to the study, only 27% of households with less than $10,000 in annual income, and 23% of those with incomes between $10,000 and $25,000, will have adequate retirement savings. In contrast, 54% of those with income between $50,000 and $100,000, and 69% of those with incomes over $100,000 will be able to retire with adequate savings.

"We were surprised to find that such a small percentage of low and moderate income households are adequately prepared for retirement," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.

He cited three reasons for the disparity. First, affluent households have greater access to generous employer-related retirement programs. Second, people with larger incomes have more discretionary income available for savings. And, third, there is greater awareness of savings opportunities and concepts such as interest compounding.

"The assumption is that working people don't understand in what bad shape they are, that they are not aware of the risks," Brobeck said. "That view is wrong." He referred to a separate study commissioned by the two organizations, which found that 59% of American households expect their standard of living in old age to be "lower" than it is now and added, "Because there is such a close correlation between both studies, there is recognition of a problem."

Economist Catherine Montalto of

Ohio State University

, conducted the study, using data from the

Federal Reserve Board's

1998 Survey of Consumer Finances released in February 2000. A total of 4,309 households were interviewed for the study, with 1,496 of them considered to be "on the upper tail of the wealth distribution."