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Tantalizing dreams of winning lottery tickets and unexpected inheritances from distant, rich relatives aside, for most of us, wealth doesn’t come all at once. Rather, it steadily dribbles in as the result of years of dedicated saving, investing and smart spending decisions.

So a recent survey that says we’re saving more is positive news, although it also indicates that we are not yet doing enough.

Better economy, but still a wealth gap

The survey, by America Saves, managed by the Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council, examined nearly a dozen indicators to conclude that over the past year Americans have improved their savings rate. Yet the same survey notes that only 40 percent say they are making good progress toward meeting their savings goals.

Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America and a founder of America Saves, said in a release that the increased savings rate indicates an improvement in the economy, but that there is still a persistent wealth gap in this country.

“Americans are saving a little more effectively today than a year ago, but only a minority are doing so very successfully,” Brobeck said.

Improvement in savings across the board

Over the past year, the percentages edged higher in nearly every savings category in the survey. For example, respondents who say they are spending less than their income and saving the difference rose three percentage points, from 68 percent to 71 percent. Those who manage to save at least 5 percent of their income grew from 47 percent to 52 percent.

There is also a positive outlook on debt: The respondents who reported they had no consumer debt or a reduction in debt rose from 76 percent to 78 percent. An increasing number also say they have sufficient emergency expenses.

The key to success is a plan

A major contributor to success among savers, according to the survey, is the presence of a plan that outlines specific goals.

For example, 57 percent of the respondents with a plan say they are making good progress with saving, versus 22 percent without a plan. Sixty-five percent of those with a plan say they are saving enough for retirement, versus 31 percent without a plan.

The savings plan helps people focus on controlling their spending while also saving income, Dallas Salisbury, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and founding director of the American Savings Education Council, said in a release. “Those with a savings plan tend to be more careful spending money, less willing to borrow unwisely, and more likely to save conscientiously,” he added.

No matter what stage of life you are in, you can save. Here are some tips for designing a savings plan for every age.

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