Many Americans are not prepared for retirement or for other financial emergencies, according to the results of a Harris poll released Wednesday.

More than one third of adults, 34%, surveyed in November 2010 said that they had no savings for retirement, and 27% had no personal savings. That’s down from May 2009, when 30% of respondents owned up to not having put away any money for retirement and 22% said they had no personal savings.

Fully a quarter—25%—of Baby Boomers said they had no retirement funds set aside. Younger people aren’t doing much better; 32% of Gen Xers, who are between 34 and 45 years old, have no personal savings. Not only that, Gen Xers who do have retirement savings are in more conservative vehicles than is usual or considered prudent for their age group.

According to Harris, “It is concerning if Americans are depleting both short- and long-term investments to make ends meet today—many may not have retirement savings when they need it.”

Pointing out that experts traditionally advise younger investors to put the majority of their investments into equities for long-term returns, and older investors to move to safer, less volatile vehicles, the company said it was revealing to see how few people in all age groups had followed this advice in the current economy. “It seems Gen Xers are keeping money out of the markets in favor of less risky investments, possibly a result of being skittish about market conditions,” the Harris said in a statement.

Other results of this survey include:

  • A 31% plurality of all adults report that they keep their personal savings "mostly in bank savings and and/or CDs", 17% keep "a relatively equal mix of stocks/mutual funds and investments such as bonds and money market funds", 11% keep their personal savings "mostly in stocks and/or mutual funds", 8% keep theirs "mostly in bonds, money market funds and other stable investments", and just over a quarter of all adults (27%) say they have no personal savings or investments;
  • The relatively small proportions of adults who keep an "equal mix" of their personal savings in equities (stocks or mutual funds) is somewhat higher among Baby Boomers and people over 65 (23% and 22% respectively) than it is among those aged 45 or younger (between 7% and 18%);
  • When asked specifically about their retirement savings, rather more people report having these invested "mostly" (18%) or "an equal mix" (22%) in stocks and mutual funds. However, 34% of all adults have no retirement savings, including 25% of Baby Boomers and 22% of people aged 65 or older; and,
  • Most people have not changed the portfolio mix in the last 6 months of either their personal savings and investments (70%) or their retirement savings and investments (74%).  Relatively small numbers have moved their investments into or out of stocks, bonds, bank savings, money market funds and CDs.