How a Rebounding Job Market Helped 401(k) Accounts Set A New Record

February 3, 2017, 7:40 PM UTC
Inside A Choice Career Fair As Jobless Claims in U.S. Declined Ahead of Presidential Election
Job seekers wait in line to speak with representatives during a Choice Career Fair in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits declined from an almost three-month high ahead of the presidential election, indicating the job market remains competitive for employers. Photographer: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mark Kauzlarich—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It looks like 401(k) retirement savers are doing better than ever—and they have a strong economy and strong stock market to thank.

The average 401(k) account had a balance of $92,500 as of the end of 2016, according to a quarterly analysis by Fidelity. That’s nearly 5% higher than a year earlier, and a whopping 33% higher than in 2012, when the average balance was only $69,400.

The analysis, which looked at 22,100 corporate retirement plans and 14.5 million participants, found that the lofty balance figures have been helped not only by a robust stock market that has been hitting all-time highs, but also by an increase in savings by workers. The study found employees had contributed 8.4% of their salaries to their 401(k) accounts, the highest rate since just before the financial crisis hit in 2008. That’s a sign of rebounding confidence among savers, after several years of an improving job market (including good numbers from January, reported Friday). Workers are less likely to save as much for retirement if they fear they’re in imminent danger of losing their jobs.

The average amount workers contributed to their accounts over the last year, which includes both employee contributions and employer matching, was $10,200, the highest such figure to date.

(Click here for more articles from Time Inc.’s Looking Forward series.)

IRA accounts also have been doing well over the last year. The average IRA account is now worth $93,700. That’s only 4% more than a year earlier.

Account holders were also borrowing less against their 401(k)s—another sign of economic stability. The percentage of accountholders with outstanding 401(k) loans fell to 21%, the lowest since the fourth quarter of 2009.

Although the numbers look good, there was a large disparity between men and women. While men had an average balance of $108,200, women averaged nearly a third less with only $73,700 in their accounts. Women’s retirement-savings balances generally tend to be lower on average than men’s, due to the ongoing gender wage gap and the fact that women are more likely than me to take time off to raise kids or act as caregivers for other friends or relatives.

Read More

CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate