Typical Retirement Account Balances

I saw this study on Gen X retirement savings, and the news is pretty bleak on average for this next big population block to retire. Median retirement savings now for Gen X is only 40k, and most of those in the lower half of the income distribution have saved nothing. Few have a pension or defined benefit plan.

Have to think more than half of this group will hope to work for their lifetime.

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when my kids started working, and we discussed benefits, i told them for your retirement savings, whatever, the company max match is, is the minimum you put in no matter how much it hurts.


My company would have the new college hires meet with all of the department heads to learn more about each group. I’d always encourage l all of them to contribute at least enough to max the company match. Never turn down free money.


humble brag, “I’m a department head”


People should also max out HSA contributions each year, if eligible (and avoid spending it if possible). It’s another source of retirement savings and it’s triple tax-advantaged.


Yes, we use the HSA account essentially as another retirement account


These are the most sobering statistics. The average savings is many times higher than the median just pointing out the extremes in savings amounts in this cohort.

Sounds like they should be voting for whomever is going to strengthen OAS funding because they will need it.


I am towards the older end of Gen X. People on my end of the range were in the period when DB plans were getting phased out and company 401k matches were more generous to compensate. It seems like a relatively small % chose to accept free money.

I worked at 3* companies that had a pension / DBP. # of plans I vested in: 0.

One, I was let go as part of a company-wide layoff in my area before I could vest in the plan. [That plan has since closed.] The second, the company announced in mid-December of the year I got hired it was closing the plan and new hires were capped at 5 years … but if you were employed by the company at the start of the year, you were included. I started February 8 that year. [I would have vested in that plan.] The third closed the plan shortly before I got there, but had I been working when it closed I might have vested in the plan if it was 3 years to vest (which I think it was). Otherwise, I would not have vested.

*Does not count Hell, which had a DBP but I went in knowing I was never going to stick around long enough to vest in but thought it would be a place I could lay low for a year or two and not have a potential flag on my employment history for jumping quickly, and by 2 months I was already this is more fucked up than I’d been told by people, I gotta get the hell out ASAP.


And one thing to remember, which keeps getting reinforced to me with various other stuff: we’re not like everyone else. Or, a lot of other people are not like us. You maybe already knew that from looking back at grade school, high school and seeing how you performed and where you ranked in your class vs. everyone else. I think everyone here has or had really good jobs, paid really well, gave us a chance to move ahead in life, didn’t have to worry constantly about bills, we were able to go to places and afford expensive things and such. We’re all really, really fortunate for that.

There’s a lot of people out there who can’t begin to understand what that’s like, because they’re in hourly jobs trying to make ends meet and struggling with debt and the recent rise in things they need every day. And because they’re doing good to afford every day stuff and rely on debt to get through, they don’t have the capacity to save much less the notion that it’s something they need to be doing. So the idea that most in the lower half of the income distribution have saved nothing isn’t surprising; the idea that median retirement savings is 40k is a little surprising, I wouldn’t have expected it to be that high. I do wonder how many of those people have retirement savings because employers are creating that for them vs. how many are actively saving themselves.


I definitely understand what it’s like to scrape by. My first job out of college had very low pay. I did that for a few years before making a career change. I did have to eat a lot of rice and beans, couldn’t take a fancy vacation, and unplanned major expenses were an issue. My first couple years as an actuarial student were at relatively low pay too, but that changed quickly as I passed exams.

Certainly those in the bottom income quartile don’t have much of a chance to save. However, most of those in higher income quartiles aren’t saving either. While I agree with the sentiment that they are barely able to meet their budget and often rely on debt, many of these folks with higher incomes are living above their means. They can’t “afford” to save for retirement, but can afford to frequently eat out at restaurants, hit the coffee shop daily, buy new cars every few years, live in a 3000 sq ft house they could barely qualify for… I do have empathy for those in the bottom of the income distribution, but not so much for middle class folks and above living above their means.

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These studies typically suck ass and should really exclude anyone with a low or zero balance (a lot of people have multiple accounts with no money in them, really ruins things)

It is hard to track these account balances overtime since most people do not religiously roll over their accounts. People themselves lose track of these things and the government winds up taking over control for them.

The best study I have seen has been from fidelity who is able to track employees who stick with their employer for long periods of time

From what I remember employees who have been with their company 10+ years have an average 401k balance of $300k+ and this number grew to $400k+ once tenure went up to 15 years+

I doubt many credentialed actuaries will financially struggle in retirement. Putting away 6% away for 35 years will result in a massive 401k balance for actuaries, once you throw in some employer matching this will be over a million bucks for most people. If you work from 22 to age 67 - that is 45 years, that’s even more compound Ing

Here is the link to their most recently released study

Fun fact, boomers who have been saving since 2008 (so 15 years) have an average balance of $500k

This study was based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the US Census. The 40k figure I cited was the average Gen X household retirement savings balance for all accounts. It’s of course lower for individuals, and individual specific account balances are even worse for the reasons you stated (but that part isn’t covered in this study). In this sample the average Gen X’er had been in their job for 11 years.

Certainly professionals including actuaries that participated in 401k plans throughout their careers should have very healthy balances at retirement. I imagine most of us will, but we are not at all typical.

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One more little anecdote is that low earners at large companies have much larger retirement balances than those working at smaller companies (ones that have weaker 401k benefits/admins/funds)

I worked at one of the largest companies in the US and performed an analysis on admin expenses related to 401k balances. 100% of employees had an account (not surprising since we had an opt out policy)

98% were contributing every year and 96% received full employer matching (6%)

This is everyone some call center reps to our chief execs

Some small companies straight up do not have 401k plans. Think of smaller shops like restaurants, grocery stores, and other 1-10 employee shops

What I mean is most people don’t even know how much they have socked away. I wouldn’t rely on survey data

I have friends who call their Roth IRA their Roth and don’t consider it a retirement account

One item highlighted by this study was the disparity between median and mean. The average household retirement savings for Gen X in this study was $243k, where the median was $40k. The averages can be a bit misleading IMO, as you have high earners with 7 figure balances and a lot with minimal balances.

Yeah yeah yeah but the reality is you can only put a government limited amount into your retirement account. Truly astronomical 401k balances are rare.

I think the low median balances are in part due to people holding their primary retirement account somewhere other than fidelity

Anyways I don’t buy the “Americans will never retire” propaganda

I see people retiring all the got damn time

Personally I don’t know any 75 year olds dragging their dying corpses into work to collect a check

Edit: I’m more inclined to believe the median 401k balance of gen Xers is 40k; but median Gen Xer has one account at fidelity, one at vanguard, one at principal, one at Charles Schwab, and one at TIAA. Each account holding the median balance amount

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No, the 40k was household median balance. Individual median was 10k or so. Maybe you should read it for a few minutes.

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What I mean is people forget how many accounts they have, which I’ve already stated

Let alone how much is in each account. Let alone how much each household member is packing

Personally I don’t even know. You stop keeping track after you hit a million :tipping_hand_woman:t2:

Studies done by the plan admin are more reliable. But then you have to aggregate them by plan