The Average 401(k) Balance by Age

It's fun to compare 401(k) balance averages, but they won't tell you much about your own retirement readiness.
Elizabeth Ayoola
Arielle O'Shea
By Arielle O'Shea and  Elizabeth Ayoola 
Edited by Robert Beaupre
avg-401k-balance

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Nerdy takeaways
  • The average 401(k) balance at Fidelity dropped below six-figures to $97,200 in the third quarter of 2022.

  • The median 401(k) balance was $20,100 in the third quarter of 2022.

  • It's interesting to compare 401(k) balance averages, but they can't tell you much about your own financial picture.

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Every year, 401(k) holders at Fidelity Investments hit millionaire status. Not one of them? You’re not alone: A seven-figure 401(k) balance is the exception, not the rule.

The average 401(k) balance at Fidelity was $97,200 in the third quarter of 2022, the most recent data available. That balance is down 22.9% from a year ago, but that could be partially attributed to market swings and inflation, especially in the past year.

If that balance still seems high, consider that averages tend to be skewed by outliers, and in this case, that number is being propped up by those rare millionaires. The median, which represents the middle balance between the highs and lows, was $20,100 in the third quarter of 2022.

No matter which number is closer to your reality — and for some, both might feel out of reach — it’s important to remember that numbers like this will tempt you to gawk, but they probably won’t offer you much actionable information.

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Average 401(k) balance by age

According to Fidelity's Q3 2022 data, here is the average 401(k) balance by age.

Age

Average 401(k) account balance

20-24

$4,100

25 to 34

$22,100

35 to 44

$63,800

45 to 54

$128,700

55 to 64

$189,800

65+

$203,000

Median 401(k) balance by age

While averages may be more common, the median is often a better metric for getting an accurate view of a data set. Averages are influenced by outliers — either very high or very low numbers. You'll notice that Fidelity's average 401(k) balances are quite a bit higher than the medians.

Age

Median 401(k) account balance

20-24

$1,500

25 to 34

$8,650

35 to 44

$21,900

45 to 54

$39,000

55 to 64

$56,450

65+

$55,300

Breaking down 401(k) account balances

The IRS sets contribution limits for 401(k) accounts, or the maximum amount you can add to your account in a given year. Currently, those contribution limits are $20,500 in 2022 ($27,000 for those age 50 or older) and $22,500 in 2023.

Even if you made the maximum contribution every single year and posted double-digit investment returns — both of which are highly unlikely; combine them and you’d be a retirement superhero — it would take nearly 20 years to hit a million. That makes it unfair and fruitless for, say, a 25-year-old to compare her balance with the average for savers of all ages.

The below numbers show how 401(k) balances increase with age, at least until participants start drawing on their money in retirement.

Ages 20-24

Average 401(k) balance: $4,100. Median 401(k) balance: $1,500.

Many of the participants in this age group are new to working and new to saving for retirement. Yet even at this young age, it’s important to prioritize contributing to your workplace retirement plan, especially if your employer matches a portion of your contributions.

Still, general recommendations suggest aiming for a retirement balance equal to between half and all of your annual salary by age 30. This group may be falling short of that, though these numbers don’t reflect what they may have saved elsewhere, in individual retirement accounts such as Roth or traditional IRAs.

» Learn more: IRA vs. 401(k)

Ages 25-34

Average 401(k) balance: $22,100. Median 401(k) balance: $8,650.

At this point, whether measured by the average or the median, participants have increased their balances quite a bit.

One point that becomes increasingly important as participants age: Fidelity’s analysis treats each account separately, which means balances aren’t aggregated by account holder and then averaged. As people age and spend more time in the workforce, they’re more likely to hold more than one 401(k), especially if they’ve changed jobs without rolling over or combining accounts.

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Ages 35-44

Average 401(k) balance: $63,800. Median 401(k) balance: $21,900.

Another solid jump by this age range, with both figures more than doubling — the last time we’ll see a percentage jump that large between age ranges. That’s likely at least partially a product of peak earning years. According to compensation research company Payscale, for women, pay tends to peak at age 44; for men, age 55.

Ages 45-54

Average 401(k) balance: $128,700. Median 401(k) balance: $39,000.

This group has hit the age at which catch-up contributions are allowed by the IRS: Participants age 50 and older can contribute an extra $6,500 a year in 2022 and $7,500 in 2023.

That can be a helpful Hail Mary for those feeling behind at this point, assuming that extra cash is available to put toward retirement.

Ages 55-64

Average 401(k) balance: $189,800. Median 401(k) balance: $56,450.

Growth has slowed here, which makes sense, as people will be using the money they've been saving for retirement.

Following this, 401(k) balances can begin to fall as more people start tapping their accounts. The average balance for those 65 and older is $203,000; the median is $55,300.

What you can learn from the average 401(k) balance

Again: not much. This is a fairly arbitrary benchmark. In the aggregate, it can speak to how workers in general are doing when it comes to saving for retirement, but it does little to help you analyze your own situation. It’s also limited to people who have a 401(k); many workers don’t.

A better approach to benchmarking your efforts: A retirement calculator, which will give you a more personalized recommendation for how much you should have saved now, and how much you’ll need at the end of the line. (If you don't like what you see, you might find our guide to retirement planning helpful.)

Finally, it’s worth noting that you may or may not want to put all your retirement eggs into a 401(k) basket. Once you’ve earned your employer match, there can be benefits to spreading your money around among other retirement accounts, such as an IRA. We have a full guide to opening an account here.

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