The average 401(k) balance was $92,500, in Fidelity’s latest quarterly analysis. That’s a gain of $4,300, or about 5 percent, from a year ago and a big jump from the $69,400 average balance of five years ago.
If the balance in your 401(k) retirement savings plan is more than $92,500, you can take a little victory lap. You’re above average.
That balance marks a record in Fidelity Investments’ quarterly analysis, which looks across 22,100 corporate defined-contribution plans and 14.5 million participants. It’s a gain of $4,300, or about 5 percent, from a year ago and a big jump from the $69,400 average balance of five years ago. (A sobering caveat to this news: One in three nongovernmental employees have no retirement plan at all through their jobs.)
That may pale next to the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index’s total return of 11.9 percent in 2016, but a good chunk of that 401(k) money is in bonds or stable-value funds.
The difference between average account balances by gender is striking: $108,200 for men, and $73,700, or 32 percent less, for women.
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The average account balances are really impressive when you look at the 401(k)s of workers who have stuck with their employers for 10 years running. The gender gap is wide here, too, with men’s average balance at $277,800 and women’s at $201,300, or 28 percent less.
It’s going to get tougher. The market may not provide much of a push to returns on traditional investments over the next decade. An October 2016 analysis by investment-advisory firm Research Affiliates concluded that, after inflation and before fees, mainstream investors might be able to earn 4.6 percent on their money over the next 10 years, with 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds.
If you haven’t saved quite $92,500 yet, you likely made progress in the past year. “Auto-escalation” clauses, which bump up the percentage of salary put into the tax-deferred accounts by 1 percent annually (up to a cap that differs by company), are playing a larger role. In 2016 Fidelity found more than one in four people raised the percentage they defer into their 401(k), and half did so through an auto-escalation feature.
The average deferral rate is now 8.4 percent, the highest since the second quarter of 2008, Fidelity found.