programs in the largely untapped lower-income market.
Primerica, the Citigroup Inc. unit that targets lower-income investors, and the Consumer Federation of America, a Washington-based nonprofit trade group, sponsored the survey, which interviewed 1,000 people and used census data to gauge assets and wealth.
Of respondents with household incomes of $25,001 to $35,000, 41% said they believe the lottery, not savings, offers a greater prospect of accumulating wealth, the study said. Of those with incomes of $15,000 to $25,000, 45% chose the lottery.
At a press conference to unveil the findings, Joseph J. Plumeri 2d, chairman of Primerica and a Citigroup vice chairman, suggested that more investor education is needed.
"Money doesn't come with instructions," Mr. Plumeri said. "To graduate from our high schools for the most part these days you have to take a swimming test, but you don't have to take any kind of test to impart the basics of finance or how to open a checking account."
Lower-income Americans could prove to be a promising segment for bank investment programs to pursue, if low-cost initiatives are devised for education and sales, said Les Dinkin, managing principal at NBW Consulting Group of Westport, Conn.
"This is a largely underserved group," Mr. Dinkin said. "If banks could develop efficient programs they might well find ways to profit from their efforts."
Banks could start with payroll savings plans, workplace programs, and mass mailings to build awareness, Mr. Dinkin said.
The potential for tapping this limited-income market may not appeal to all banks. The survey found that the typical U.S. household has just $1,000 of net assets and $35,000 of net worth, largely through the equity in their homes.
"Most low- and middle-income households have not accumulated much net wealth," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the consumer federation.
He said initiatives that urge people to save a little at a time would be a good way of helping this group build wealth.
The national savings rate is anemic because many people use their excess cash to pay down the relatively high levels of consumer debt they carry, the survey said. One-fifth of households with the fewest net assets had the highest level of consumer debt, mostly in the form of unsecured credit card borrowings.
Right now, investments in products like mutual funds or individual stocks are rarely considered by lower-income people, the survey found.
Rob Garver contributed to this article.