According to the Federal Reserve Board's 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances, the typical middle-income family (with an annual income between $20,000 and $80,000) has a net wealth of $74,000 and net financial assets of $11,000. That might sound good to you if your situation is bleaker, but it's really not that much, unless the family is very young. That wealth will be expected to fund retirement and college expenses, among other things, so it's not likely to go far.

The survey also found that 19% of all middle-income families (about a fifth of them) don't save at all and only 40% save regularly. Yikes.

Things weren't always this grim. Decades ago, Americans had a much higher personal savings rate, but it has since fallen considerably. According to a 2001 U.S. General Accounting Office report on National Saving, the personal saving rate averaged 8.3% over the 1960s, increased to an average of 9.6% over the 1970s, and generally declined over the 1980s. In the late 1990s, the personal saving rate dropped below the postwar low of 4.7% in 1947. In 1999, the personal saving rate plunged to 2.2%, an annual rate not seen since the Great Depression. For 2000, the rate was estimated to be roughly. zero.

Among those concerned about this troubling situation and trend are the folks at the Consumer Federation of America and the Ford Foundation. They banded together a few years ago to launch the "America Saves" campaign, trying to get more Americans to build wealth instead of debt. (The average credit card debt of American households tops $8,000!)

Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration and the American Savings Education Council (ASEC) recently launched a national "Save For Your Future" education campaign. The ASEC offers a bunch of handy tools to help you plan your saving strategy.

If you don't have a savings strategy and aren't carrying it out, give the topic some thought -- and action. You need to have an emergency fund and plan, along with sufficient retirement savings in progress -- we can help you get there. Learn more in our Savings Center, which offers some special interest rates for Fools and consider taking our Rule Your Retirement online seminar, too.

One way to begin getting your financial ducks in a row is to seek the counsel of a good financial professional. We give you tips on how to find one in our Financial Advisor Center and we also offer our own inexpensive personal financial advisor service -- consider taking advantage of its free trial.