Trying to catch up: Nearly half of nonretirees surveyed in a new Wells Fargo study aren't confident they'll have enough retirement savings "to live the lifestyle they want." Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

Most middle-class Americans look at their retirement savings and see only a pile of regrets. That's according to a new study showing one-third (34 percent) of middle-class respondents are not currently saving a cent for retirement, while a majority (72 percent) wish they had started saving earlier in life.

Median retirement savings dropped $5,000 from $25,000 in 2013 to $20,000 in 2014, according to the fifth annual Wells-Fargo Middle-Class Retirement study. Pollsters conducted 1,001 phone interviews with Americans between the ages of 25 and 75 who have a median household income of $63,000.

In a new survey question added this year, 22 percent said they would rather "die early" than live without enough money for a comfortable retirement.

Across all age groups, respondents expressed serious doubts about their abilities to accumulate enough savings to retire comfortably: Nearly half (48 percent) of non-retirees said they are not confident that they can save enough "to live the lifestyle they want" during retirement.

"This lack of confidence jumps to 71 percent for non-retirees between the age of 50 and 59," according to the study.

Respondents in that 50-59 age bracket are saving less each month -- a median of $78 -- compared to respondents aged 30-49, who are saving a median of $200 a month.

Older Americans, aged 50 and up, also have higher expecations for how Social Security will factor into their retirment than respondents on the whole. A majority of survey respondents (70 percent) said they don't view Social Security as a primary source of retirement funding.

By contrast, the survey finds that "almost half (46 percent) of non-retirees in their 50s think Social Security will be their primary source of income, as do 56 percent of non-retirees between the ages of 60 and 75."

Most respondents (70 percent) have access to a 401(k) or an equivalent savings plan at work, and 93 percent of that group are kicking in contributions to those plans. The median savings difference between those who have access to a 401(k) and those who don't is stark: