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

According to Vanguard's How America Saves 2024 report, the average balance of defined contribution plans – most of which are 401(k)s – was $134,128 in 2023. That balance is up 19% from the end of 2022

Vanguard. How America Saves 2024. Accessed Jun 26, 2024.

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If that balance 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 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 Vanguard's median balances are quite a bit lower than the averages.

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

» Calculate your future balance with our free 401(k) calculator

Average 401(k) balance by age


Average 401(k) account balance

Under 25










65 and older


Median 401(k) balance by age


Median 401(k) account balance

Under 25


25 to 34


35 to 44


45 to 54


55 to 64


65 and older


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Under 25

Average 401(k) balance: $7,651

Median 401(k) balance: $2,816

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

These numbers don’t reflect what younger investors may have saved elsewhere, in taxable brokerage accounts, or individual retirement accounts, such as Roth or traditional IRAs.

» Learn more: IRA vs. 401(k)

Age 25-34

Average 401(k) balance: $37,557

Median 401(k) balance: $14,933

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

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.

Age 35-44

Average 401(k) balance: $91,281

Median 401(k) balance: $35,537

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, women hit their peak earnings on average at age 44. For men, that age is 55.

Age 45-54

Average 401(k) balance: $168,646

Median 401(k) balance: $60,763

This group has hit the age at which catch-up contributions begin to be allowed by the IRS: Participants age 50 and older can contribute up to $8,000 in 2024

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

After this age group, 401(k) balances can begin to fall, or at least grow at a slower pace, as even more people start tapping their accounts.

Age 55-64

Average 401(k) balance: $244,750

Median 401(k) balance: $87,571

Growth has slowed here, which makes sense, as people may start to withdraw the money they've been saving for retirement.

After this age group, 401(k) balances can begin to fall, or at least grow at a slower pace, as even more people start tapping their accounts. The average balance for those 65 and older is $272,588 and the median falls to $88,488.

Average 401(k) contribution rates

Throughout 2023, the average contribution rate among Vanguard plan participants was 11.7%, including matching employer contributions. The median contribution rate was not far behind, at 11%

Vanguard. How America Saves 2024. Accessed Jun 26, 2024.

If you want to beef up your account balance, one way to do it is to contribute at least enough to get the employer match if there's one offered. Another is to evaluate your 401(k) plan regularly, and increase your contributions over time.

Average 401(k) match

The average employer match was 4.6% of pay and the median was 4%, according to Vanguard. Most plans, 69%, followed a single-tier match formula. This is when an employer matches a specific amount on a set percentage of pay. For example, the match could be 50 cents per dollar on the first 6% of pay.

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

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 defined contribution plan at work; not everyone does.

A better approach to benchmarking your efforts: A retirement calculator, which will give you a more personalized recommendation for how much you’ll need at the end of the line. (If you don't think you're saving enough, 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. Should you max out your 401(k)? Maybe. But it isn't the best choice for everyone.

Once you’ve earned your employer match, there can be benefits to spreading your money around among other retirement accounts, such as an IRA. » Ready to get started? Read our full guide to opening an IRA

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