Does The Savings Rate Include Retirement Savings?

I’ve always been curious on what the personal savings rate actually includes.

The personal savings rate has been a newsmaker for the last couple of years.  Before the recession, we were actually saving in the negative territory, with the difference largely fueled by taking loans against (phantom) home equity.

Now, we’ve returned to a positive savings rate, which is good except for when economists complain that spending is necessary to fuel the economy (I’ll save that paradox for another day).

When I look at what our savings rate is, the short answer is:

I have no clue.

Usually answers to questions like that are pretty straightforward if you know how to search Google. When I did a Google search, some answers said yes, some said no, some said it all depends.

If our 401(k) contributions are to be counted, we are well above double digit savings rate.  If not, then we’re well below that.  I’m personally comfortable with this, but as to whether the government statistics would say so, who knows?

Does anybody have a definitive answer after wading through all the rhetoric on whether retirement savings are considered part of the savings rate?  Does it even matter?