401(k) Plan Balances Hit Record High for 2012: Fidelity

By Jerry Geisel

Nov. 8, 2012

Aided by strong investment results, employees’ 401(k) average account balances hit a record $75,900 at the end of the third quarter of 2012, according to an analysis released Nov. 8.

For the three month period ending Sept. 30, employees’ average account balances jumped 4.2 percent from the prior quarter, and 18 percent compared with the end of the third quarter of 2011 when account balances averaged $64,300, according to Fidelity Investments.

Strong investment results accounted for 78 percent of the third quarter account balance increase, and 22 percent was attributable to participant action, such as boosting contributions, Fidelity said.

In fact, 4.6 percent of plan participants increased their deferral rate during the third quarter, compared with 2.8 percent who decreased it.

The Fidelity analysis, which is based on 12 million 401(k) plan accounts in more than 20,000 employer plans, shows how the accounts have recovered from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, when account balances were battered by the plunge in the equities market.

At $75,900, the average account balance at the end of the 2012 third quarter is up by more than 64 percent compared with end of the first quarter of 2009 — considered the bottom of the last economic downturn — when the average account balance was $46,200.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email

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Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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