12% of millennials have taken the first step toward saving for retirement - and stopped

millennial retirement savingsSamir Hussein/Redferns via Getty ImagesMore than half of millennials don't have a retirement savings account.Samir Hussein/Redferns via Getty Images

Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, but too many aren't making the most of their income. 

Insider recently teamed up with Morning Consult to survey 2,096 Americans about their financial health, debt, and earnings for a new series, "The State of Our Money." About 670 respondents were millennials, defined as ages 23 to 38 this year.

According to the survey, more than half of millennials (55%) don't have a retirement savings account, such as a 401(k) or IRA. Not to be overlooked, a full 45% of millennials do have a retirement account. But opening an account is only the first step - 12% are not actively contributing to theirs.

Experts say a 401(k) or other defined-contribution plan through work is the best way to start saving for retirement. The contributions are pulled from your pre-tax salary and put into an investment account where you can choose from a selection of mutual funds, stock funds, bond funds, and even annuities. 

What's more, many employers offer to match employees' contributions up to a specified dollar amount or a percentage of their salary. A match is free money, and not taking advantage of it is a wasted opportunity. Financial planners recommend deferring enough of your salary to score the match, but at the end of the day, no amount is too small - you have to start somewhere.

As expected, many millennials blame low income for their lack of savings, the Morning Consult and Insider survey found. "I don't earn enough money to save for retirement" was cited as a major reason by about 53% of those who don't have a retirement plan. Roughly 45% said being out of the labor force was either a major or minor reason they couldn't save.

But not having access to a 401(k) at work isn't an excuse to not save. Anyone can open up and contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA through a brokerage firm or other financial institution. These tax-advantaged accounts allow savers under age 50 to contribute up to $6,000 a year. Even teenagers can save money in a Roth IRA.

Millennials are in a crucial stage in life for retirement preparation. Despite believing they don't earn enough to save, every single dollar counts when time is on your side.

Check back on "The State of Our Money" throughout the month for more findings and analysis.

Generation Z from Business Insider Intelligence

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