It’s not just the poor and middle America who find it hard to save for a rainy day -- or retirement. One out of every four families making $150,000 a year or more is living paycheck to paycheck, according to a new survey by Nielsen Global Consumer Insights.

The number increases to roughly one out of every three for households earning $50,000 to $100,000 and one of every two for those taking in $49,999 and below.

While this indication of financial security and insecurity was measured by the firm for the first time this year, a Nielsen senior vice president, James Russo, says consumers are taking a brighter view of the economy seven years after the meltdown, even if they are not as sanguine as economists.

He noted consumer sentiment has only risen to barely optimistic. While economists generally claim that the recession ended in 2009, 57 percent of consumers told Nielsen they still believe we are in one.

One of the hidden bright spots in the recovery, says Russo, is the number of families saying they have no spare cash. That number has been cut in half from nearly 50 percent in 2008 to 23 percent now.

Roughly three-fourths of families are putting extra cash into savings or paying off debt, considerably more than the one in five investing in vacations.

While this may appear to show some personal fiscal conservatism, Americans as a whole rank as the world’s worst savers.

According to Nielsen, 22 percent of people in this country have no spare cash, followed by 21 percent in the Middle East and Africa, 20 percent in Europe and 15 percent in Latin America.

Families in Asia and the Pacific have the greatest savings ethos, or at least the fewest problems, paying their monthly bills, with only 8 percent reporting no extra money on hand.