NEW YORK -- The already low savings rate in the United States has been getting worse, and the decline threatens to diminish the quality of life for future U.S. generations, according to a new study by Merrill Lynch & Co.

At a press conference, the largest U.S. brokerage firm said a survey conducted this year shows an increased recognition of the need to save, but litte improvement in savings practices.

Lack of Preparation

The results show that savings by Americans is actually declining - concluding that individuals, companies, and the government are not doing enough to reverse the slide.

Among the survey's highlights was the finding that baby boomers are apparently doing even less than today's pre-retirees to prepare for retirement.

Another is that the survey revealed a potential "gender gap" among pre-retirees, in that more women than men say they are financially unprepared for retirement.

An Older Population

As the baby-boom generation ages and life expectancy increases, the population of the United States will age dramatically.

In the next 40 years, when the last of the baby-boom generation reaches 65, the retired population will have risen to 65 million.

According to the study, if these trends are not reversed and people do not adequately prepare for retirement, an increased financial burden will be placed on succeeding generations.

If the current trend continues, about 30 million baby boomers will not have savings for their for retirement.

These new savings practices pose "a threat to ne of the cornerstones of the American Dream - the freedom to build a better life for ourselves and our children - that could diminish the quality of life for generations to come," the survey said.

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