Retirement account balances reached a record high $91,800 in the first quarter of 2015, and more than 1 million people increased the rate at which they are putting money aside for the future.
Fidelity Investments based the findings on analysis of the retirement accounts it has under management, including 401(k)s, IRAs and small business retirement plans.
How much an individual contributes to their retirement savings is one of the most critical factors in retirement readiness, said Jim MacDonald, president of workplace investing for Fidelity Investments.
Contributions to retirement savings accounts have increased across the board, including IRAs, small business plans and traditional 401(k) accounts. Were very encouraged by this trend and hope to see it continue, considering that any increase in savingseven by 1% a yearcan have a positive impact on long-term retirement success.
Small businesses are also doing a better job with their retirement plans. Fidelity took a close look at self-employed 401(k) accounts, self-employed (SEP) IRAs and Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs from 2007 to the end of 2014.
For self-employed 401(k) accounts, the average balance at the end of 2014 was $144,100, a 39% increase from 2007, Fidelity found. The average contribution was $22,400 at the end of the year, a 29% increase since 2007.
For SEP IRAs, the average balance at the end of 2014 was $89,800, a 48% increase since 2007. The average contribution for 2014 was $14,000, a 20% increase over 2007, Fidelity found.
For SIMPLE IRAs, the average balance at the end of 2014 was $37,700, a 54% increase since 2007. The average contribution last year was $6,260, an 8% increase since 2007, Fidelity said.
The average account balance is up 0.5% from last quarter and up 3.6% from a year ago, Fidelity found. The average 401(k) balance was $91,800 and 23% of employees increased their contribution rates since the first quarter of 2014.
Fidelity found that with employee and employer contributions, the average overall savings rate increased to 12.5%. The employee contribution rate remained at 8.1% with the employer contribution rate rising to 4.4%.
Automatic enrollment has gained some traction. Fidelity found that almost one-third of all 401(k) plans automatically enroll new employees, up 2 percentage points from a year ago, while 13% of employers will automatically increase employees contribution rate each year.
Employees who have saved in a 401(k) plan for 10 years or more had an average account balance of $251,600 in the first quarter, up 12% year-over-year, Fidelity found. For employees with both an IRA and 401(k) with Fidelity, balances increased 2.2% year-over-year from $261,400 to $267,200. The average combined contribution increased 1% from $11,200 to $11,300.
The average IRA balance at the end of the first quarter was $94,100, which was a record high and a jump of 5% over the fourth quarter of 2014. The actual amount people contributed to an IRA dropped slightly over the past year, the overall percentage of investors making a contribution to their IRA in the first quarter was 7% higher than in the first quarter of 2014, Fidelity found. Among investors under the age of 35, the increase was 26% year-over-year.
Fidelity also reported some good news. The number of employees with an outstanding 401(k) loan dropped to 21.8%, which is the lowest level in five years.
Fidelity Investments data was based on 21,100 defined contribution plans, including advisor plans but excluding tax-exempt plans, and 13.5 million participants.
Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.
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