Retirement Balances Are Shrinking — but Not for This Generation

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Man holding a nest egg
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Retirement accounts continue to shrink from coast to coast, as they have throughout all of 2022, according to new data from Fidelity.

In the third quarter of this year, the average IRA balance dipped to $101,900, a 24.9% decrease from the same period in 2021. It also marked an 8% fall from the second quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, the average 401(k) balance slid under six figures, to $97,200. That is down 22.9% from the same time a year ago, and a decrease of 6% from the second quarter.

This is the third straight quarter during which Americans’ retirement savings have decreased. However, one generation is bucking the trend.

Members of Generation Z saw their balances rise a bit in the third quarter, up 1.2%.

Fidelity notes that the balances of people in this group, folks born from 1997 to 2012, tend to be smaller relative to the balances of members of other generations. That fact alone could contribute to better performance.

For example, someone who has $10,000 in an account and makes a contribution of $1,000 has suddenly increased their account balance by 10% in an instant. Such jumps can seem to mitigate the impact of market losses in accounts with relatively small balances, at least in the short term.

And indeed, Fidelity notes that members of Generation Z are contributing more money to their accounts than in the past.

Bitter but persistent savers

Other generations also are staying the course when it comes to retirement savings, even in the face of a market that has been sinking almost the entire year.

Average account balances may be down, but people of all ages continue to save. In fact, the number of IRAs on the Fidelity platform has grown this year.

In a summary of Fidelity’s findings, Kevin Barry, president of Workplace Investing at Fidelity Investments, says:

“Retirement savers have wisely chosen to avoid the drama and continue making smart choices for the long-term. This is important, because one of the most essential aspects of a sound retirement savings strategy is contributing enough consistently – in up markets, down markets, and sideways markets — to help reach your goals.”

But even though people continue to save, it’s not making them feel much better about the stock market’s poor performance in 2022.

The number of people with negative feelings about their finances (32%) now exceeds those who have positive feelings (30%).

Last year, it was just the opposite: At that time, 45% of workers felt positive about their finances, more than double the percentage who held negative feelings (22%).

Fidelity’s findings were based on an analysis of 35 million IRA, 401(k) and 403(b) retirement accounts.

For more about retirement investing, check out “5 Simple Ways to Invest Your Retirement Savings.”

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