Although it's a bright spot that consumers are saving more, investors still have a long way to go. Even contributing the maximum $5,500 to an IRA ($6,500 for consumers age 50 and older) won't be enough for many consumers to have a comfortable retirement, said Sam McPherson, a certified financial planner based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Failing to save is a lost opportunity.
"I'm always trying to convince [clients] of the wisdom of putting away what they can," he said. "Every year, you get closer to the day you're going to stop earning a regular income."
—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant