Retirement account balances rise despite economic turmoil: Fidelity

IRA and 401(k) balances increased for a second straight quarter

The average 401(k) balance increased to $108,200 in Q1 2023.  (iStock)

Despite economic volatility, retirement account balances increased in the first quarter of 2023 for the second quarter in a row, according to the latest data by Fidelity Investments

The average IRA balance increased to $109,000 in Q1 2023, a 5% rise from Q4 2022.

In addition, the average 401(k) balance jumped to $108,200, a 4% spike from Q4 2022 and the average 403(b) account balance rose to $97,900, up 6% from Q4 2022. 

Plus, 401(k) contribution rates also increased in Q1 2023, Fidelity reported. Total 401(k) savings rates, which included employer-matching contributions, increased to 14%, up from 13.7% in Q4 2022. That brings 401(k) savings rates close to Fidelity’s recommended 15% contribution rates. 

Even though the U.S. has been experiencing a time of stubborn inflation, record-high debt and rising interest rates, Americans' retirement readiness may be on a brighter path, Fidelity projected. 

"With U.S. employers adding 1 million jobs to the economy in the first quarter of 2023, Americans appear to be refocusing on investing in their future," Fidelity said in its report. 

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Employer 401(k) contributions reach record-high levels

The average 401(k) employer matching contribution reached a record 4.8% in Q1, Fidelity said. Moreover, 85% of workers received some type of employer 401(k) contribution in Q1 and 78% of workers contributed enough money to their 401(k) to earn the full matching contribution from their employers. 

Some employers provide eligible workers with matching contributions. Generally, these are additional contributions that employers make to their employee’s retirement plans calculated as a percentage of the contributions employees make, up to a certain limit, according to a post by Empower. But in some cases, employees need to contribute a certain amount to their retirement plans before they become eligible for matching contributions. 

"We are encouraged to see positive gains for retirement savers, evidenced through rising account balances, improved savings rates and a commitment by employers – including small businesses – to help employees prepare for the future," Kevin Barry, president of Workplace Investing at Fidelity, said in a statement. 

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Secure 2.0 Act launched to improve America’s retirement readiness 

Before retirement plan balances and contributions rates increased in Q1, the Secure 2.0 Act – which aims to rejuvenate the retirement plan system and help Americans maximize their savings – was signed into law in December 2022. 

Here are some of its highlights:

  • The required minimum distribution (RMD) age was increased to 73 and will rise to 75 in 2033.
  • Starting in 2024, employers can provide their employees with 401(k) contribution matches based on their workers’ student loan payments
  • Plan sponsors in 2024 can start creating "emergency savings accounts" that allow non-highly compensated employees to make Roth after-tax contributions to a special savings account within the retirement plan.
  • Part-time employees will have easier access to workplace retirement plans beginning in 2025.
  • Companies would be required to auto-enroll eligible employees into employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s in 2025.
  • Beginning in 2025, catch-up contributions for most workplace retirement plans will increase to $10,000 for workers between the ages of 60 through 63.

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