Average 401(k) savings reach record highs, consistent savers fare best
savings reach record highs, consistent savers fare best
Skyrocketing stock market activity coupled with greater
contributions from employees last year has led to a record high of $91,300 in
average 401(k) savings balances in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to a recent
With the S&P 500 surging more than 10% last year and 2014
experiencing the third consecutive year of double-digit growth, workers are
seeing greater gains in their 401(k) plans than usual. The study has shown that
employees are also stashing away a greater amount into their 401(k) savings,
contributing an average 8.1% of their salaries last year – 12% including
employer matches – which is the highest savings percentage recorded in Fidelity’s
What are the causes
of the 401(k) savings increase?
Today, more and more employers are automatically enrolling
workers into 401(k) plans with contribution rates of 5% and higher, which may
account for some of the greater amount of savings last year. Also, with waning
confidence in social security, there is a heightened awareness about the
importance of putting money into a 401(k) plan, which may be one’s only
retirement savings vehicle.
While employee contributions are a significant source to be
credited for these savings, Fidelity attributes soaring stock market
performance for approximately 60% of these savings gains last year. Although
stock market gains certainly helped boost 401(k) savings last year, Fidelity
experts warned investors that they cannot always count on the ebbs and flows of
the stock market entirely to build up their nest egg and that a steady
contribution strategy must play a role.
Lower unemployment rates and record-setting stock market
performance may have made it a good year for retirement savers, but Jim
MacDonald, Fidelity’s president of Workplace Investing, urged savers to take a
long-term view of their retirement savings, not react to short-term market
“The typical American worker will see markets go up and down
many times during their career, so commitment to a long-term savings and
investing strategy will put individuals in the best position to meet their
retirement goals,” he said.
How are Baby Boomers
Among Baby Boomers, the average 401(k) savings balance
amounted to approximately $151,200 in the fourth quarter of 2014, an increase
of 6% from last year and a 67% increase since the darkest hours of the Great
Recession in 2009.
According to Fidelity spokesman Mike Shamrell, there are
positive trends among the Baby Boomer generation — namely how engaged they have
gotten in their savings as they near retirement. According to the study, there is a 15%
increase in people reaching out for guidance for their retirement planning,
which indicates that savers are serious about reaching their financial goals in
“While $91,300 is an all-time high, no one feels that is
enough to retire on,” he said. “We’re headed in the right direction, but we
still have work to do.”
For consistent savers who have held 401(k) plans for 10
years or more, their savings amounted to an average balance of $248,000,
proving that a steady long-term strategy works best to reach one’s retirement
Are these savings
enough for retirement?
While 401(k)s are just one type of savings vehicle used to
build up their retirement savings, 401(k)s have become – or at least been
considered as — the sole source of retirement income for some. While these
average 401(k) balances alone are insufficient to enjoy a comfortable
retirement, the greater the percentage of one’s paycheck that is consistently put
toward retirement savings, the better.
Generally, financial advisors recommend saving 10% to 15% of
one’s salary in order to save a sufficient sum to enjoy a comfortable
retirement. According to another recent Fidelity study, IRA savings also
increased last year, averaging $92,200 in 2014.
“It’s always great to see the behavioral indicators pointing
upwards whether it be the average balance of average contribution rate and
average savings rate,” Shamrell said. “Whenever that’s the case, it’s a good
sign and shows a lot of people are starting to understand and taking the right
steps to save for their retirement.”
While 401(k) and IRA savings have reached record highs, much
of that number is as a result of record-setting bull runs in the stock market.
Keep in mind, however, that while you cannot control stock-market returns and
economic volatility, you can control many other factors including your
contribution amount and schedule, your portfolio diversification, risk
exposure, investment fees, and execution.
Whether you are nearing retirement or just beginning to
accumulate savings in an IRA or 401(k), it is important to take a disciplined,
proactive approach to retirement saving. While market swings can impact your
401(k) in the immediate-term, a consistent, long-term savings strategy mapped
out with a financial professional is the best way to withstand the ebbs and
flows in the economy and ultimately achieve a comfortable retirement.