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The Average 401k Balance by Age — Are You Saving Enough?

Time To Read 12 MIN READ

America's average 401k balance by age can tell you a lot about the state of your personal finances, but it isn't the whole picture.

Start by checking your retirement savings against our list of average 401k balances by age. Then, scroll down for 9 more factors that can make your nest egg look a whole lot bigger.

The average 401k balance by age

Find your age in the list below to see the average balance that other Americans your age have in their 401k retirement savings. If you want to know how you're doing on your retirement plan compared to your peers, checking the average 401k retirement account balance is a good start.

Still, there are other ways to compare your finances to your age group.

For example, will you have good Social Security benefits? Do you have an emergency fund? Have you paid off your high-interest debt?

Any of these can put you ahead of the game when it comes to your retirement plan, so don't stop with your 401k savings. Read on to see what else you can do to save even more and retire on your own terms.

Average 401k account balance, under age 25

  • Median: $1,817
  • Average: $5,419

According to Vanguard, the average American who's twenty-four years old or younger has $5,419 in their 401k retirement account, but the median balance is only $1,817.

What's the difference? The median represents the middle-of-the-road person in this age group. In other words, half of all Americans under twenty-five have saved less than $1,817 in their 401k, and half have saved more.

The mathematical average is higher because, basically, the top half of the group is doing a good bit better than the middle, but the bottom isn't doing much worse.

If you're in this age group, the best news is that you have plenty of time to build your retirement, especially if you decide to get serious about it today—starting with the 9 factors and tips below this list!

Jump to the factors and tips

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Average 401k account balance, ages 25-34

  • Median: $10,402
  • Average: $26,839

For Americans between 25 and 34, the median savings rise to $10,402. Again, half are below that number, and half are above. But the mathematical average for that range is $26,839.

If you're in this age range, it's important to start saving for retirement now. That said, you might want to rebalance your retirement plan several times along the way.

For example, it's great to maximize your retirement contributions, but building up an emergency fund, paying down high-interest debt, and considering buying a home to build real estate equity are other things you can do to get further ahead.

For more ways to improve your retirement savings, see the 9 key factors and tips down below.

Jump to the factors and tips

Average 401k account balance, ages 35-44

  • Median: $26,188
  • Average: $72,578

For Americans between 35 and 44, the median savings are $26,188, and the average savings are $72,578. If your own retirement savings aren't stacking up, it's time to get serious about your plan.

Remember, these are averages. What any specific individual will need for retirement depends on many other factors.

Do you expect to pay off your home before you reach retirement age? Do you have any debt besides your mortgage that you still need to pay down? Do you hope to travel the world once you retire, or do you expect your needs to be more modest?

Your 401k account balance is only one part of a complete retirement plan. Read on below this list for other factors and tips that can improve your financial picture.

Jump to the factors and tips

Average 401k account balance, ages 45-54

  • Median: $46,363
  • Average: $135,777

If you're between 45 and 54, the median savings for your age group are $46,363, and the average savings are $135,777. Many people start becoming more concerned about retirement in this age bracket, but it's not too late to change your retirement plan if you need to.

If your savings are below your goals, start by looking carefully at your budget to find more places to save. By adding to your savings more aggressively, you'll be able to make up some of that lost ground.

Remember that there are limits regarding the amount you can contribute to a 401k each year, but people age 50 and older can make extra catch-up contributions, essentially raising your contribution limits.

You can also save in other ways, such as through private brokerage accounts, a personal emergency fund, home equity, or private investments. Don't miss our 9 factors and tips below for improving your retirement plan.

Jump to the factors and tips

Average 401k account balance, ages 55-64

  • Median: $69,097
  • Average: $197,322

If you're between 55 and 64, the median savings for your age group are $69,097, and the average savings are $197,322. Given that retirement can last 2 or 3 decades, many Americans would be on financially shaky ground if they had to rely on their 401k alone.

Fortunately, Social Security provides a moderate monthly check for the vast majority of retired Americans. Pensions, home equity, and private investments can also help make ends meet.

Read on below for 9 factors and ways to make your retirement plan work for you.

Jump to the factors and tips

Average 401k account balance, ages 65+

  • Median: $64,548
  • Average: $216,720

For those over the age of 65, the median savings for your age group are $64,548, and the average savings are $216,720. However, the averages in this age group should be taken with a grain of salt due to the rules regarding distributions.

The penalty for early withdrawal from a 401k ends at age 59.5, and the rules regarding minimum distributions kick in at age 72 (or 70.5 for those born before July 1, 1949), meaning you are actually required to start taking annual distributions.

The portion that you have to take as a distribution changes year by year based on your age, but the portion gets higher each year, leaving less and less in the fund for most people of retirement age.

The older you get, the more other factors become much better indicators of the overall state of your retirement plan.

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9 factors that can affect the true value of your retirement savings

Remember, the average retirement savings in a 401k is only one aspect of a balanced retirement plan. There are plenty of other factors that go well beyond the average account balance of your 401k to help you enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Retirement savings can include a 401k, a traditional or Roth IRA, an emergency fund to protect you from having to take out high-interest loans, a pension plan, your own private brokerage account, and more.

So before you decide whether or not you're happy with the savings in your 401k, take stock of the 9 factors below in evaluating your retirement plan more holistically.

1. IRA accounts

The first benchmark you should consider beyond a 401k is whether you also have a traditional IRA or Roth IRA. In fact, one of the biggest challenges in planning for retirement is being able to see all your retirement savings in one place, giving you a complete picture of your nest egg, which is probably a good bit larger than your 401k alone.

That's why Quicken and Simplifi by Quicken both let you connect to all your financial accounts—including your 401k, IRA, private brokerage accounts, savings accounts, and more—totalling your account balances automatically.

They even let you add assets like your home, other real estate, and privately held investments so you can track your complete net worth.

To learn more about calculating your true net worth, read 5 Personal Finance KPIs You Should Be Tracking.

2. Social Security

For the vast majority or Americans who have reached retirement age, Social Security benefits provide a key source of income.

The payout is based not just on your current annual salary but on the best 35 years of your earning history, providing a moderate but significant monthly retirement income.

Medicare also provides healthcare coverage for Americans of retirement age, which can help make those monthly Social Security checks go further.

To learn more about making your retirement savings last, read How to Make Your Money Last in Retirement.

3. Pensions

Many Americans still have access to pension plans for additional retirement income through plans for teachers, firefighters, VA pension benefits, and other government pension programs. Based on your annual income, if you're vested in a pension plan, this additional income can help you make ends meet.

Learn more in What Is Vesting and How Does It Work in a Retirement Plan?

4. Brokerage accounts

Many people also have private brokerage accounts with companies like Fidelity or Vanguard that can provide additional retirement funds. If you've been investing in the stock market or other financial markets on your own, be sure to count those funds among your assets when evaluating your overall retirement plan.

Learn more in Investing with Quicken: How to Manage Your Investments and Grow Your Net Worth.

5. Savings accounts

Another key factor in a strong retirement plan is keeping an emergency fund of short-term, accessible savings to cover unforeseen healthcare costs and other surprise expenses.

A good rule-of-thumb savings rate is to be able to cover 3-6 months of your regular expenses. This can save you from being forced to take out a high-interest loan or withdraw investment funds at unfavorable times, protecting your financial security.

Learn more in our Emergency Fund Guide: How Much and How to Build One.

6. Debt

Credit card debt, student loans, and other personal debt can negatively impact your retirement plan by draining your resources, especially if you're paying high interest rates.

That's why your net worth—the full value of all your assets minus the full value of all your debts—is a better measure of your finances than your 401k balance alone.

Learn more in How to Maximize Your Retirement Savings with Quicken.

7. Investment returns & inflation

Depending on how far you are from retirement, your rate of return can change your financial picture. A higher investment rate of return over a longer period of time can really add up.

On the other hand, higher inflation rates can take the wind out of your retirement sails by undercutting the value of your investment growth. Be sure your retirement plan includes a range of possible inflation rates so you know how to pivot if you need to.

Learn more in How to Stay Financially Healthy Despite Inflation and a Volatile Market.

8. Spending rate in retirement

How much you expect to spend in retirement also makes a big difference in how much you'll need. Above-average spending will require above-average savings, and vice-versa.

In planning your retirement spending, remember to take into account where you plan to retire, not just what you plan to do when you get there. The cost of living in a place like New York City is a lot higher than it is in Jacksonville, Florida.

To start planning your retirement budget, try our free, online Budget Calculator.

9. Taxes

Finally, taxes play an important role in your retirement planning, both while you're saving up for retirement and once you're taking withdrawals from your various retirement accounts.

Don't give the IRS more than you need to. Make sure you're making the most of your retirement with some smart tax planning.

Learn more with our Year-End Tax Tips to Maximize Your Deductions.

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9 key things you can do to help you reach your retirement goals

1. Start saving as early as possible

Fortunately, Millennials and Gen Z are already proving to be big savers. With the power of compound interest, your retirement savings will have decades to keep trending upward.

Want to see how your savings are doing? Check out How Much Should You Have Saved? Financial Milestones by Decade.

2. Pay down any high-interest debt

By paying off your high-interest debt, you'll save a lot of money on interest over the long run. However, don't be too quick to pay off low-interest debt. Instead, evaluate your options for that cash to plan your best financial strategy.

Learn more in 3 Essential Steps in Planning a Debt-Reduction Strategy.

3. Start an emergency fund

If you don't already have an emergency fund to cover 3–6 months of regular expenses, it's a good idea to start one. Having a savings cushion can protect you from relying on credit cards or other high-interest debt in an emergency. Instead, you can use your cash to earn money for you.

Learn more in Money Management: Why You Need an Emergency Fund.

4. Maximize your 401k savings

Assuming you have access to a 401k plan through your employer today, be sure you're hitting your 401k contribution limits each year, including those catch-up contributions if you qualify for them. Does your employer match your contributions up to a certain amount? Take advantage of that company match too so you're not leaving free money on the table.

Learn more in How Much Should I Contribute to My 401k?

5. Look into an IRA

If you don't have a 401k or if you’re already maxing out your employer’s matching funds, look into opening your own IRA as well. You can pair a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA with your 401k as long as you understand the rules for both.

Learn more in Can I Contribute to Both a 401k and IRA?

6. Consider a financial advisor

Many people think financial planning is just for millionaires, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Financial advisors don't just exist to help millionaires protect their assets. They also help everyday, working people grow their nest egg and plan for a comfortable retirement.

In fact, many of them find their highest job satisfaction in helping regular people become millionaires and retire on their own terms.

Learn more in our quick guide to Finding the Right Financial Advisor.

7. Plan to transition from active to passive income

The journey from your first job to the day you retire is about more than just trying to save money. It's about planning your transition from the earned income you get from your job to the kind of capital gains income and passive income that can provide you with a secure, sustainable retirement.

As your finances grow, you might want to start diversifying into income-producing real estate, investments that pay dividends, privately held investments, or others forms of investments that can support your lifestyle without diluting your capital.

Learn more in Are You Leveraging These 3 Types of Income to Maximize Your Personal Finances?

8. Run your plan through our free retirement calculator

Congratulations! If you've made it this far, you're clearly serious about your retirement plan. To move beyond comparing your 401k savings to the national average and really dig into a plan that's right for you, you need a tool that can take these other factors into account and help you create a comprehensive retirement plan based on your actual finances.

Start today with our free, online Retirement Calculator.

Or, if you're ready to maximize your retirement plan, consider Quicken for Windows with its built-in Lifetime Retirement Planner.

9. Take control of your personal finances

Whether your retirement is 40 years away or just around the corner, the most important thing you can do to make your retirement plan work is to take control of your personal finances.

Create and stick to a budget or spending plan, save ahead for your planned expenses, pay down your high-interest debt, and track all your investments in one place with Quicken's suite of personal finance management tools.