NU Online News Service, July 9, 6:30 p.m. – Researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, say more U.S. workers who change jobs are keeping retirement plan assets in retirement accounts.

When members of a 401(k) plan or a similar retirement savings plan change jobs, they can leave their share of the plan assets with the original plan, roll the assets into their new employers’ retirement plans, put the cash in individual retirement accounts, or spend the cash immediately.

The percentage of lump-sum recipients who kept all of their most recent lump-sum distributions in retirement savings vehicles increased to 35% in 1998, from 19% in 1993, EBRI researchers report in an upcoming article.

The percentage of recipients who spent all of the cash immediately fell to 14%, from 23%.

Figures in the EBRI article, based on the latest available government statistics, suggest that workers might be saving more of the lump-sum distributions because the workers are getting older, and the size of the distributions is increasing.

EBRI researchers found that older recipients are much more likely to save the distributions than younger recipients are: 53% of recipients between the ages of 61 and 64 keep the cash in retirement savings vehicles, while only 23% of recipients between the ages of 21 and 30 do so.

The average age of the typical U.S. job changer may have increased significantly between 1993 and 1998 as a result of the aging of the baby boomers ? the huge generation of U.S. residents born between 1945 and 1964.

EBRI researchers also found that recipients of big distributions are much more likely to save the cash than recipients of small distributions.

When recipients received distributions of $50,000 or more, 71% saved all of the cash.

When recipients received distributions of $500, 83% spent some or all of the cash.

The average size of distributions appears to be increasing along with the average age of the job changers.

EBRI figures show that the percentage of job changers with lump-sum distributions of prime interest to financial advisors is relatively small.

In 1998, 14 million U.S. residents over the age of 21 had received lump-sum distributions at some point in their lives, but only 7 million had received more than $5,000, and only 1.3 million had received more than $50,000.

EBRI says it will be publishing the lump-sum distribution article sometime in the next few weeks in EBRI Notes Number 7.