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Retirement, HSA Balances Rose in Q3, Fidelity Analysis Shows

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Fidelity Investments’ third quarter analysis of retirement balances, released Wednesday, showed that the average 401(k) balance rose by 2% from the second quarter, and is up 7% year over year.

The average IRA balance increased by 5% from the April-to-June quarter, and by 6% year over year.

Here are average balances over three time periods:

  • Q3 2016: 401(k)—$90,600; IRA—$94,100
  • One year ago: 401(k)—$84,400; IRA—$88,800
  • Five years ago: 401(k)—$64,300; IRA—$66,100

Fidelity’s analysis was based on 22,000 corporate defined contribution plans and 14.5 million participants, as of September 30. These figures include the advisor-sold market. Not included are the tax-exempt market, non-qualified defined contribution plans and plans for Fidelity’s own employees. The IRA analysis was based on 8.2 million IRA accounts.

The analysis showed that the average account balance of 401(k) savers who have been in their company’s 401(k) plan for 15 years reached $331,200 at the end of third quarter, up from these individuals’ average balance of about $43,900 in 2001.

Fidelity Roth IRA accounts hit two million at the end of the third quarter, a 5% increase from a year ago. Since the 2011 third quarter, some half a million Roth IRA accounts were added, and during that time, the number of millennials with Roth IRA accounts more than doubled to 353,000.

Fidelity said in a statement it recommends that people regularly monitor the mix of stocks, bonds and cash in their 401(k), but not make changes driven by short-term market volatility or other economic events.

The analysis showed that despite recent market volatility, the percentage of 401(k) savers (excluding Fidelity participants whose assets are in managed accounts) who changed their asset allocation dropped to 7.4%, down from 8.5% a year ago and the lowest rate ever.

One reason for this trend, Fidelity said, was that more people were saving all of their 401(k) assets in a target date fund. At the end of the third quarter, 44% of Fidelity’s 401(k) savers had put all their 401(k) savings in a target date vehicle, up from 41% a year ago.

“When the market gets shaky, it’s important to stay focused and to stick to the fundamentals of retirement savings: have a plan, make regular contributions and ensure your asset allocation is aligned with your objectives,” Jeanne Thompson, Fidelity’s senior vice president for workplace investing, said in the statement.

“All of these steps will put you in the best possible position to reach your retirement goals.”

Surge in Health Savings Accounts

Fidelity noted that the number of people who use health savings accounts to cover current and future qualified medical expenses grew significantly over the past year. The number of Fidelity-provided HSAs increased by 43% to 501,000, with an average HSA balance of $3,150.

A Fidelity analysis of HSA accounts as of Dec. 31 showed that although more people were using HSAs, they were not spending as much as they had thought they would. Seventy-six percent of HSA account holders withdrew less than they had contributed to their account.

As a result, Fidelity said, more people carried over their HSA balance year to year, and an increasing percentage of these invested their HSA dollars to grow their account, which can help defray future qualified medical expenses, including expenses in retirement.

“Paying for health care can be a big source of anxiety for people, both now and especially in the future with the cost of health care in retirement estimated to be $260,000,” Thompson said.

“Health savings accounts are a great tool to help employees meet their current and future health care costs, which can improve their financial well-being and lead to more productive workers.” 

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