With all the emphasis financial planners put on saving for retirement, you might think everyone has at least some kind of nest egg waiting for them. But a new poll by Harris Interactive has found that not everyone has gotten the retirement savings message.

Thirty-four percent of those asked say they have no retirement savings and 27 percent have no personal savings.  Just 18 months ago those numbers were moderately lower, at 30 percent and 22 percent respectively.

Generationally, one-in-four Baby Boomers between the ages of 46 and 64 have no retirement savings, with 22 percent of Matures, those 65 and older, saying the same. 

Gen Xers, between the ages of 34 and 45, are struggling with more immediate issues; 32 percent say they have no personal savings.

Investment breakdown

In terms of investments, 14 percent of Baby Boomers and Matures each state that their personal savings is mostly invested in stocks or mutual funds -- a greater proportion than younger generations say the same.

"Current economic conditions seem to be driving somewhat less risky investment behavior by Gen Xers, which goes against the grain of traditional investment advice," said Barbara Bertner, Vice President of Financial Services Research for Harris Interactive. "A combination of trust and education would likely bring these consumers back into alignment with traditional investment thinking."

Other results of this survey suggest a fairly low level of financial literacy or awareness among these demographics. For example, 59 percent of respondents say they have heard nothing, or very little, about new rules about overdrafts requiring bank customers to sign an annual agreement to permit their bank to approve payments that exceed their balances.

This is surprising, since overdraft fees have been a huge source of consumer complaints about banks. Under the new law, banks were required to contact their customers to tell them about the change, and their right to "opt in" to continue the overdraft coverage.

While two in five bank customers say they know all about these new rules, only one in every six have "opted in" for this service.

Money in the bank

A 31 percent plurality of all adults report that they keep their personal savings "mostly in bank savings and and/or CDs," 17 percent keep "a relatively equal mix of stocks/mutual funds and investments such as bonds and money market funds," 11 percent keep their personal savings "mostly in stocks and/or mutual funds," eight percent keep theirs "mostly in bonds, money market funds and other stable investments," and just over a quarter of all adults say they have no personal savings or investments.

The survey also found that most people have not changed the portfolio mix in the last  six months of either their personal savings and investments (70 percent) or their retirement savings and investments (74 percent).  Relatively small numbers have moved their investments into or out of stocks, bonds, bank savings, money market funds and CDs.

So What?

The survey authors say it is a concern if Americans are depleting both short and long term investments to make ends meet today. Many may not have retirement savings when they need it. 

Financial experts have traditionally advised younger investors to invest heavily in equities for the long term and older investors to move more of their savings into less volatile investments.

"It is interesting to see how few people under 45 have adjusted to this advice given current economic conditions," the authors write. "It seems Gen Xers are keeping money out of the markets in favor of less risky investments, possibly a result of being skittish about market conditions."