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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – While only 27% of Americans under the age of 60 expect to receive an inheritance, more people are planning to leave one to family members, according to a new report.

A disconnect is occurring since 64% of Americans age 60 and older expect to leave an inheritance to family members.

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Out of the people who expect an inheritance, 42% said they plan to use the windfall to invest in savings or a retirement account, a sign that consumers are being responsible about their financial health and future, said Mike Sante, managing editor,, a financial website which discusses interest rates ranging from mortgages to credit cards.

"Even a relatively small inheritance can make up for many years of saving too little," said Mike Sante, managing editor, "An inheritance could be the ultimate financial 'get out of jail free' card for many families. If you haven't been saving enough, you can do so some serious catching up."

The remainder of the people said they plan to use their inheritance to pay off debt (18%) and pay for education (12%). Only 6% said they will use the bulk of the inheritance to buy jewelry, a luxury car or a vacation.

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"The fact that more than 40% plan to save their inheritance demonstrates a level of responsibility," Sante said. "We spoke to many financial advisors and academics and that surprised every one of them. We hope it reflects the idea that people have to look for ways to increase their savings."

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Among those who expect an inheritance, 51% think it will be less than $100,000. The most popular answer (given by 25% of respondents) was between $10,000 and $50,000.

Even a relatively small inheritance can go a long way for many consumers who need to catch up with their retirement savings, he said. The average balance in Americans' 401(k) accounts is approximately $80,000, according Fidelity Investments, said Sante.

A consumer who receives $25,000 can invest that money into a target date fund earning 6% in interest for 15 to 20 years will end up saving $80,000, Sante said.

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People who wind up spending the money are making a mistake because they should be looking for every opportunity to increase the amount of their savings, he said.

"Even that small of a burst of money can have a significant impact on how you are going to live your life 15 to 20 years now," Sante said. "Combining the money you save with the inheritance and a 401(k) or IRA can really help make for a secure and safe retirement."

Parents should reveal their true net worth to their children and provide more transparency, said Steven Kolinsky, founder of Kolinsky Wealth Management, based in Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

"People are uncomfortable talking about death and this fear of dealing with mortality may be the barrier that prevents proper planning and communication," he said. "It is important that parents provide their children with an honest and accurate inheritance expectation. Grandparents may want to leave money for their grandchildren's education fund, but that can only be fulfilled if the necessary planning steps are addressed."

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet