Information Center

How Much Is Saved in 401(k)s

03/22/21

Increasingly, retirement savings plans have become the way American workers accumulate the money they will need to supplement their Social Security payments in retirement. The most common retirement savings plan is the 401(k). 401(k)s are offered by employers, but it is typically up to the employee to decide whether to participate and how much to contribute. Many employers also contribute, but are usually not required to do so.

How Much People Are Saving

The following statistics are all “median” figures. “Median” is a half way point, where half of a group has more assets and half has less. Median is the most commonly cited measure used to describe retirement savings plan account balances.

Median retirement account balances for:
Private-sector workers:
$15,000
Private-sector workers age 55-64:
$60,000
Median retirement account balances for:
Public and private-sector households: $65,000
Households with a worker or spouse age 55-64:
$134,000

How many people are participating

Private-sector workers offered retirement savings plans:
64%
Private-sector workers participating in retirement savings plans:
47%
Private-sector workers offered retirement savings plans who participate:
74%
Private and public-sector households participating in a plan:
43%


Read Why Pensions Are Important
 to see statistics that demonstrate the importance of pension plans.

Find out the Annual Contribution and Benefit Limits for Retirement Plans

 

Sources

How much people are saving

  • Data obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) 2014 SSA Supplement.
  • Bhuta, Neil, Jesse Bricker, Andrew C. Chang, Lisa J. Dettling, Joanne W. Hsu, Kevin B.Moore, Sarah Reber, Alice Henriques Volz, and Richard A.Windle. “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2016 to 2019: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances.” Federal Reserve Bulletin, September 2020, Table 3, page 16.  The figures are for 2019 and include account balances from IRAs and Keogh plans and public and private employer-sponsored retirement plans.  Employer-sponsored plans include 401(k), 403(b) and thrift savings accounts from current and past employment.  The Survey of Consumer Finances uses the term “families,” rather than “households,” but since the definition of “families” employed in the survey is comparable to the definition of “households” used in U.S. Census Bureau surveys, the term “households” is used here.
  • Additional Information: 2019 SCF Chartbook, Median value of retirement accounts for families with holdings.

 How many people are participating

  • U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2020,” September 2020, Private Industry Tables, Table 2.  Also: Civilian Workers, Table 2. The survey distinguishes between access to a retirement plan and participation in the plan. This figure includes full-time and part-time private sector workers with access to an employer sponsored 401(k), 403(b), profit-sharing, ESOP or money purchase plan. Workers are considered participating in a contributory plan, such as a 401(k), if either they or their employer contributed to the plan and they met the service requirement. All workers in noncontributory plans are counted as participating.
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