Retirement account balances have hit new highs, Fidelity says

Retirement account balances have hit record highs again — but now isn’t the time to get complacent.

For the third quarter in a row, retirement account balances reached new highs, according to fresh data from Fidelity. In the second quarter of 2017, the average 401(k) reached $97,700, and the average individual retirement account, $100,200. (See chart below for details on balance changes over time.)

“The market has been pretty consistently climbing over the past year,” said Meghan Murphy, a director at Fidelity Investments.

The numbers also show the power of long-term, consistent saving, she said.

Over the past 10 years, workers regularly saving in a 401(k) have seen their average balance grow from $78,800 to $266,100, according to Fidelity — and nearly half of that growth comes from employee contributions. Millennials, in particular, have seen a significant boost, with their average account balance rising from about $7,000 to almost $110,000 over the same period.

“They’ll never look back and regret those contributions,” Murphy said.

Average retirement balances

Account type
Q2 2017
Q1 2017
One year ago
5 years ago
401(k) $97,700 $95,500 $89,100 $73,300
IRA $100,200 $98,100 $89,600 $73,100
SOURCE: Fidelity Investments

But just because your account is climbing, that’s no reason to assume all is well.

“At times like this, when the market is up, people sometimes get a little too comfortable, they think maybe they don’t need to save as much,” said Carina Diamond, a certified financial planner and the managing director of Springside Partners in Akron, Ohio. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people are still behind.”

Check your account balances and contributions against benchmarks to see if you’re on track for a secure retirement. Set up small, automatic increases to your contributions, Diamond said.

Peter Cade | Getty Images

Roughly 1 in 5 workers still isn’t contributing enough to get a full employer match, according to Fidelity. About half of those workers are falling short by 1 to 2 percent, said Murphy – check the match details and terms to confirm you’re not leaving free money on the table.

An up market is also a good opportunity to rebalance: You might discover that your portfolio has gotten more aggressive over time, Diamond said. Fidelity found that 40 percent of 401(k) account holders who manage their own asset allocation had more in stock than recommended.

Make sure that you’re comfortable with the level of risk, she said. That helps better prepare you for the next inevitable market turn.

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