Changing financial and market landscapes are having an impact on individuals’ savings strategies, according to new research from independent benefit plan administrator Ascensus.
For one thing, as tuition expenses continue to rise, families are increasingly seeing the value of investing in 529 education savings accounts, the company said Tuesday, citing the findings of its annual savings trends research.
Although the market downturn in 2018 had only a “minor impact on overall 529 account balances across all demographics,” the average balance reached almost $23,000 as of Dec. 31, Ascensus said in announcing its findings. “Another key trend tied to this landscape of higher education expenses is the entrance of older generations of account owners into the 529 market,” it said, noting that account owners 55 to 64 and those over 65, with average beneficiary ages of 17 and 13 respectively, had the second- and third-largest average balances of all age groups, both exceeding $22,000.
Saving trends are also being impacted by the fact that health care expenses “continue to increase exponentially,” Ascensus said, noting the Employee Benefit Research Institute reported that the average couple will now cumulatively need $399,000 for a 90% chance to cover all their health care expenses in retirement.
“Heightened awareness for these staggering costs and the increasing popularity of high deductible health plans have driven HSA enrollment to new highs,” the company said, adding there are now more than 25 million health savings accounts held by U.S. savers, with a combined $53 billion in assets.
Ascensus’ 401(k) platform data, meanwhile, showed Americans under 25 years old are saving at lower rates than those in older age groups, which “suggests the need for further investigation into the impact of competing financial priorities, including student loan debt,” according to the company.
But there was a “notable, positive difference in progress for savers” 25 to 34 years old: Of all retirement savers on the Ascensus platform who said they’re “on track” to meet their goals, 20% of them are in that age range, compared with only 3% for those under 25, the company pointed out.