"It is telling, in a sense, that when you are young, the ticket is to do what you can to grow your income. That will raise your earning potential each and every year throughout your career. And then the key is -- you have to save it," he says.
Not everyone is resigned to saving their pennies, however. Nine percent of Americans hope to win the lottery, with the largest concentration in the upper age groups of the population. Eleven percent of those over 50 fork over hard-earned money for a slim chance at a jackpot.
"That certainly is not a comforting notion. It probably speaks to the fact that there are some seniors that have come to realize that they don't have a sufficient nest egg to where they can envision retiring in the future," says McBride.
While entrepreneurship is often thought of as the best way to get ahead, only 6 percent of those polled plan to start or sell a business to increase their fortunes.
"It seems like the new American dream is winning the lottery, not starting a business," Bartlett quips.
Starting a business is difficult and fraught with risk, but the odds of success are better than winning the lottery, though an entrepreneur does stand to lose much more than a dollar.
"You have to wonder what the answer would have been last year, because starting a business in a recession could be really suicidal. And there is a reason why everyone is not cut out to be an entrepreneur -- it's hard work and it's risky," says Weston. "It's not within everyone's realm of possibility."
This national random-digit-dialed phone study of 1,004 adults 18 or older was conducted for Bankrate by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media. The surveys were conducted from Oct. 10 through Oct. 12, 2008. The sample was weighted by demographic factors including age, gender, race, education and census region to ensure reliable and accurate representation of adults in U.S. households. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample. For full results and methodology, download this PDF.