The economy is improving, but Americans are still finding it hard to save money

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According to a new survey by Bankrate.com, slightly more than half of Americans, about 51 percent, have more emergency savings than credit card debt. That is the lowest percentage since the website began tracking the issue in 2011. More than one in four Americans have more credit card debt than emergency savings, which is the highest percentage in the past four years.

"Consumers clearly are not making progress in an environment where incomes are stagnant," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "Many people are still hampered by higher household expenses as well as long-term unemployment or under-employment."

And while the ranks of savers are slipping, Americans are aware of how important it is to save.

"What's changed since the recession is that people now recognize how important savings is -- they just haven't been able to make much progress on that front," McBride said. "The single biggest barrier to that has been stagnant income. People either don't have enough money to ramp up spending in a way that's going to propel the economy forward; at the same time, they don't have that additional money to ramp up their saving in any meaningful way either."

According to the survey, Americans between the ages of 30 and 64, the prime earning years, are the most likely to have more credit card debt than emergency savings.

"Savings is really the Achilles' heel when it comes to financial security," McBride said. "People recognize they need more than what they have and this is the one area where, month in and month out, people say they are less comfortable with what they have now than what they had a year ago."

Bankrate.com's Financial Security Index fell to 99.3 in February, the lowest level since November 2013. Readings below 100 indicate lower financial security than the previous year. Two of the five components, job security and net worth, are higher than one year ago. Two others, debt and overall financial situation, slipped into neutral territory this month.