NU Online News Service, May 20, 2004, 4:15 p.m. EDT – The typical U.S. worker had better luck with 401(k) plan accounts than with individual retirement accounts in the early 2000s.[@@]

The median balance for IRAs dropped 12% between early 2000 and late 2001, to $15,000, while the medium balance for 401(k) plan accounts and other defined contribution retirement plans dropped only 8%, to $15,000, according to a new report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington.

EBRI figures show that average 401(k) plan balances for members of the 4 demographic categories of adults with annual family incomes under $40,000 grew, held steady or shrank less than 3% between early 2000 and late 2001.

But, over the same period, average 401(k) plan balances for members of the 3 demographic categories of adults with annual family incomes over $40,000 fell by 12% to 15%. IRA balances for adults in the 3 higher income categories fell about 10%.

The slump of the early 2000s hit workers with graduate degrees especially hard.

Adults with graduate degrees began 2000 with bigger 401(k) plan account balances than members of most other demographic groups included in the EBRI statistics, but their average account balance fell 17%, to $59,280.