Cash beats real estate for many Americans, a study says. (Photo: Getty)

It seems we haven’t come all that far from the mattress method of saving.

For 54 million Americans, says a new Bankrate.com report, cash — well, in the forms of savings and CDs, anyway — is the long-term investment of choice, beating out everything but real estate.

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While 25 percent of Americans chose real estate as their favored savings method for money that they don’t need for more than 10 years, and 23 percent chose cash — the aforementioned savings and CDs — gold/precious metals and the stock market tied at 16 percent each, with bonds only the investment of choice for a measly 5 percent.

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Considering the amount of return needed to fund a retirement, and the interest rates paid on savings and even CDs, that’s no way to save for what could be 30 years out of the workplace.

But understandably, perhaps, many are skittish when it comes to investing in stocks after the Great Recession — not to mention the downturn of 2000-2002 — and it shows, particularly in GenX’s least-likely penchant to turn to the stock market for their long-term investing; just 13 percent of them look to stocks as an investment, compared with 17 percent of millennials.

Cash investments, as might be expected, were more popular among households with lower incomes — below $50,000 — than they were among people with above-average incomes. And interestingly, 43 percent of younger millennials — 18–25-year-olds — “overwhelmingly” chose cash as their investment of choice for money they wouldn’t need for 10 or more years.

And that was by more than a 2-to-1 margin over the next runner-up, real estate. But 28 percent of older millennials — 26–35-year-olds — sided with older age groups on choosing real estate as their first option for long-term investment. Among millennials as a whole, 32 percent opted for cash instead.

People appear to be more afraid of losing what they have than the potential to grow it into more. By choosing to invest long-term money into real estate, cash and even gold, they’re more pursuing safe havens (although for gold, that’s debatable) than they are actually investing.

But as long as the economy continues to treat the majority harshly, with lower salaries and disappearing benefits, that’s a trend that’s likely to continue.