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Need to Know: Industry Trends and Research

Types of Accounts

Among working-age individuals, the most common type of retirement accounts in 2020 were 401(k)-type defined contribution (DC) plans, but new Census Bureau data finds that overall rates mask substantial inequality among those who own retirement accounts. Based on the 2021 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the U.S. Census Bureau finds that among working-age individuals (ages 15 to 64), DC-based plans included 34.6% of all retirement account ownership in 2020, followed by IRA and Keogh accounts (18.2%), and defined benefit and cash balance plans (13.5%). The median value of DC plan accounts was $30,000, while the median IRA or Keogh value was $30,820.

But in highlighting the differences in retirement assets and ownership by generation, sex, race, and ethnicity, the survey finds that Baby Boomers, men, and non-Hispanic white and Asian individuals are the most likely to own retirement accounts.

In 2020, working-age Baby Boomers ages 56 to 64 were the most likely to own at least one type of retirement account at 58.1%. The next most likely were members of Generation X (ages 40 to 55) at 56.1%. Roughly half (49.5%) of Millennials ages 24 to 39 owned at least one type of retirement account, but only 7.7% of Gen Z members (ages 15 to 23) owned a retirement account.

Given their age, it's not surprising that Gen Z members were the least likely to own a retirement account in 2020, but they also have the most time to accumulate additional retirement savings. In fact, previous estimates for 2013 showed that only 17.7% of Millennials owned retirement accounts when they were ages 20-31.

Fast forward to today, and current SIPP estimates show how Millennials' retirement account ownership increased as they aged and gained labor market experience. "

Future SIPP estimates will show the evolution of retirement account ownership for Gen Z members as they age and accumulate labor market experience," write Bureau statisticians Maria Hoffman and Mark Klee, and economist Briana Sullivan.

Beyond generations, differences really start to show up when looking at ownership by sex, race, and ethnicity. Men were slightly more likely (47.8%) than women (43.5%) to own a retirement account in 2020. About 54% of non-Hispanic white individuals owned a retirement account, and 46.8% of Asian individuals owned a retirement account.

Yet, only about 37% of non-Hispanic black individuals and 36.1% of "other" non-Hispanic individuals {American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawalian or Other Pacific Islander or multiracial) owned a retirement account. Ownership rates were lowest among Hispanic individuals at 28.3%.

Saving for Retirement

Meanwhile, the 2021 SIPP also featured new questions on employee and employer contributions to retirement accounts sponsored by an individual's main employer. For each account type, Individuals were asked about contributions they made, and income withdrawn or received from these accounts.

According to the findings, 92.1% of 401(k)-style account owners and 81.1% of IRA or Keogh account owners contributed to their retirement accounts in 2020: this was regardless of the frequency of their contributions. Meanwhile, a smaller share (57.7%) of pension holders contributed to their employer-sponsored or DB plan.

The median amount account holders contributed to their 401k-style accounts was $3,599. and for pension plans was $3,257. The median total amount employees contributed in 2020 to their own IRA or Keogh account was slightly lower at $2.514.

While this current update featured only employee contributions. the Census Bureau notes that future research will examine employer contributions in combination with employee contributions.

What is the SIPP? For those who may be unfamiliar with it, the SIPP is a nationally representative longitudinal survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau that provides comprehensive information on the dynamics of income, employment, household composition and government program participation. Beginning with the 2021 interview, the SIPP asked a series of questions sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA) about employer-sponsored retirement and pension plan coverage. These questions are a revised version of questions included in the 2014 SSA Supplement and the Retirement and Pension Plan Coverage Topical Module administered as far back as the 1984 SIPP panel.


Retirement Savers Stay Focused on Long-Term, Despite a Drop in Q2 Balances

Even though average account balances have decreased, given the stock markets decline in the second quarter, there was as good news to be found in Fidelity's Q2 2022 Retirement Analysis.

The analysis, which is based on the savings behaviors and account balances for more than 35 million IRA, 401(k), and 403(b) retirement accounts, finds that retirement savers continue to look long-term. as total 401(k) savings rates still hovered at record levels and the percentage of employees with 401(k) loans remained low for the fifth consecutive quarter.

In fact, despite the market volatility of the past two quarters, 401(k) plans continue to see steady contributions from both individuals and their employers. The total savings rate for the second quarter—which reflects a combination of employee and employee 401(k) contributions—continues the positive momentum achieved in the first quarter, with a 13.9% contribution rate, just below Fidelity's suggested savings rate of 15%. Men continued to save at higher rates than women at 14.7% versus 13.7%. Pre-retiree Boomers saved at the highest levels (16.6%), although even Gen Z participants saved in the double digits (10%).

Staying the Course

What's more, the majority of retirement savers did not make changes to their asset allocation. Only 5% of 401(k) and 403(b) savers made a change to the asset allocation in the second quarter, slightly lower than the 5.3% that made a change in the first quarter and consistent with the number of individuals who made a change to their allocation in the second quarter of 2021. Of the savers making a change this past quarter, Fidelity found that 85% made only one change and the top change involved shifting savings to more conservative investments (38%).

Meanwhile, outstanding 401 (k) loans and average loan amounts continued to decline. The percentage of 401(k) savers initiating a new loan continues to remain low, with only 2.4% of participants initiating a loan in the second quarter. In addition, the percentage of participants with a loan outstanding also moved downward, dropping to 16.7% for the second quarter—which is a significant drop compared to 18.9% in the second quarter of 2020.

Average Balances

And while average balances dropped across the board, the drops were below the S&P's decline of 16.1% for the second quarter and below the first quarter of 2020- the last period with significant market volatility, taking place at every start of the pandemic.

According to Fidelity's data, the average 401(k) balance dropped to $103,800 in the quarter, down 20% from a year ago and 15% from the first quarter of 2022. The average 403(b) account balance decreased to $93,300, down 18% from a year ago and a decrease of 13% from last quarter. The average IRA balance was $110,800 in the second quarter, which was a 12.8% decrease from the last quarter.

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