More contributions and the Trump rally drove the average 401(k) balance to an all-time high last year of $92,500, up nearly 5 percent from 2015, according to Fidelity Investments, one of the largest providers of workplace retirement plans.
That average balance has increased 33 percent from $69,400 in 2012.
Workers contributed an average of 8.4 percent of their salaries to the employer-sponsored plans last year, which is the highest level of contribution since before the financial crisis, Fidelity found.
When you add in employer matching contributions, which average 3 percent of annual pay, and profit-sharing, which usually adds another 1 percent to contributions, the typical worker is saving 12.4 percent of their salary annually for retirement, said Katie Taylor, Fidelity’s vice president of thought leadership.
She also attributed the gains in 401(k) balances to employers making it easier for workers to contribute to the plans through automatic enrollment as well as plans that automatically increase contributions for workers.
About 70 percent of Fidelity’s plans “auto-enroll” workers and roughly 16 percent of those plans increase worker contributions each year if they agree to it.
A bull market also juiced contributions, “though people should be saving for retirement regardless of what the market is doing,” Taylor said. Fidelity’s analysis is based on more than 22,100 corporate retirement plans with 14.5 million participants.
Is it enough?
Nearly $93,000 in a 401(k) won’t last that long over a 30-year retirement and is nowhere near the $1 million nest egg many people strive to have in their accounts by the time they stop working.
And averages may not mean much if you don’t have access to a workplace retirement plan. More than half of American workers — roughly 55 million — don’t have a retirement plan on the job and 29 percent of households with members age 55 and older don’t have a nest egg or a traditional pension plan.
However, consistently saving makes a difference. People who regularly put money into their retirement savings plans tend to beat the account balances of the average worker, according to a 2016 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Investment Company Institute of 8 million plan participants from 2010 to 2014.
Nearly 20 percent of workers who regularly contributed over the four years studied had more than $200,000 in their 401(k) plan accounts, while another 16 percent had accumulated balances between $100,000 and $200,000, the researchers found. Meanwhile, the average worker had roughly $60,000 to $76,000 in their accounts in the same period.
No better time to start than now.