Fewer Americans Have Retirement Accounts, New Study Says

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A new report from the Federal Reserve found that fewer people have retirement accounts and the poor have been hit especially hard.

The number of Americans who are saving for retirement continues to drop.

In 2013, ownership of retirement accounts by U.S. households fell below 50 percent, continuing a downward trend. And if you’re a lower-income individual, the retirement participation percentage was even lower, at 40 percent – an eight percentage point decline since 2007.

These startling facts are highlighted in a new report by the Federal Reserve.

“This overall decline was driven by declines in both IRA and DC [defined contribution] coverage, as there was little change in the fraction of families with a DB [defined benefit] plan,” the report said. (See: “8 Reasons Your Parents Had an Easier Retirement Than You Will.”)

Many retirement accounts took a huge hit during the recession, but for most people, balances bounced back. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for everyone. According to MarketWatch, retirement account balances declined for people at the high and low ends of the income scale.

The average balance in Americans’ retirement accounts — a category that includes individual retirement accounts (IRAs) as well as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and Keogh plans — rose 10 percent over the past three years, from $183,400 in 2010 to $201,300 in 2013. The median balance, meanwhile, was up 25 percent, from $47,200 to $59,000.

Any rise in retirement account balances is due to a “combination of resurgent stock markets and increased contributions by those who participated in retirement plans,” the Fed report said.

Take a look at the following average retirement account balances – focusing on families headed by someone between ages 35 and 64 – broken down by income bracket:

  • Bottom half. This group had about $39,100 in their IRAs and 401(k)s in 2013 – a decrease from $50,600 in 2007.
  • Upper-middle. This group represents people whose income falls between 50 and 90 percent of the distribution scale. Retirement account balances for this group soared by 16 percent, from $125,600 to $147,300.
  • Top 10 percent. The top earners experienced a drop in their retirement account balances, from $485,000 in 2007 to $446,000 in 2003 – an 8 percent drop.

The retirement data is part of the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, which collected information from about 6,000 households.

Does your retirement account balance mirror what you see here? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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Read Next: 8 Reasons Your Parents Had an Easier Retirement Than You Will

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