NEW YORK (MainStreet) — It's not exactly a secret that U.S. adults are struggling to save for a decent retirement, but the situation just keeps getting worse.

Wells Fargosays 34% of Americans responding to a survey simply aren't saving for retirement, and that figure grows to a representative 41% of Americans age 50-59 — those rapidly approaching retirement.

In addition, 48% of Americans in that same age group say they won't be able to "survive" in retirement because they won't have enough money.

Some Americans are just putting off saving for retirement, figuring they can make up ground later. Wells Fargo says 59% of workers between the ages of 30-49 say they will aim to save more money later in life, as they believe they can't put enough money into a retirement fund right now.

That in itself is a big mistake, since money grows over time when invested properly. Economists and financial advisers often refer to the "miracle of compound interest," which allows assets to increase based on the accumulation in a savings or investment account.

But way too many Americans view retirement savings as a sacrifice, if not a downright inconvenience, with 61% of Americans included in the Wells Fargo survey saying they just aren't putting the necessary time and effort to properly build a retirement savings account.

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"Saving for retirement isn't easy," notes Joe Ready, director of institutional retirement and trust at Wells Fargo. "It requires sacrifice, and it's not something people can push off and hope to achieve later in life."

Bypassing a retirement savings plan now just makes it all that harder to build an ample retirement account later, a fact that seems to be lost on an alarmingly high number of Americans, Ready says.

"If people in their 20s, 30s or 40s aren't saving today, they are losing the benefit of time compounding the value of their money," he says. "That growth can't be made up later, so people have to commit early in life to make savings a regular discipline year after year — it is the only way most people will achieve their financial goals to carry them through retirement."

All told, 72% of survey participants say they "should have started earlier to save for retirement."

Wells Fargo reports that middle-class workers have saved only a median average of $20,000 so far for retirement. That just won't cut it, a fact that might just be starting to dawn on millions of worried people.

By Brian O'Connell for MainStreet