In 2019, the average 401(k) account balance was $92,148, according to Vanguard data.

Each year, the investment company analyzes account data from 5 million retirement accounts. Across these accounts, the typical account balance varies widely by the method used to calculate it — while the average 401(k) savings balance is over $90,000, the median account balance is much less at $22,217, according to Vanguard's latest data, which was calculated in 2019.

But there are several factors that influence the typical amount that people have to retire. In general, account balances increase with age and income level, as well as the industry where you work and your gender.


Average 401(k) balance by age

Retirement savings are invested, so they grow with compound interest, which makes account balances increase with time. Like other types of retirement accounts, money saved in a 401(k) grows like a snowball, with interest earning interest on itself.

With compounding interest, the earlier money is put into an account, the more opportunity it has to grow, and the greater the possible returns. In retirement accounts like 401(k)s, building retirement savings early means a greater opportunity for growth. 

Here's the average amount people have saved for retirement by age group, according to Vanguard's data.

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Average 401(k) balance by income level

Vanguard's data shows that 401(k) balances are greatly influenced by annual income. Across all age groups, the amount people save for retirement increases with their earnings. 

The most significant increase in 401(k) balances comes after the $50,000-per-year mark. While workers earning between $30,000 and $49,999 per year have a median balance of $6,909, workers in the next higher bracket earning between $50,000 and $74,999 have a median balance more than three times higher, at $21,359.

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Average 401(k) balance by gender

In general, men save more for retirement than women. 

Across all age levels, Vanguard's data indicates that women have a median 401(k) account balance about $10,000 less than that of men. A gender pay gap contributes to lower retirement savings, with the average woman earning $0.82 for every man's dollar, Business Insider's Tanza Loudenback reported.

Because income is tied to 401(k) account balances, this gender pay gap has an effect. Here's the typical amount a person of each gender reported — men and women were the only genders considered in this study — has saved for retirement across all ages and incomes.

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While a large disparity in savings exists, women often need greater retirement savings than men to retire comfortably. Women tend to live longer and could therefore need more long-term care than men, which could require greater spending in retirement.

Average 401(k) balance by industry

According to Vanguard data, balances vary widely between industries. Retirement-savings matches, in which an employer matches an employee's contributions to their savings up to a given percentage, may be more common in some industries than others. Earnings could also affect how workers in a specific industry save.

Here's how the average balances break down by industry, according to Vanguard's data.

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People who work in agriculture, mining, and construction do a significant amount of saving, with the average industry worker's account balance over $160,000. However, teachers and healthcare workers, and people who work in wholesale and retail, tend to lag behind, with average account balances under $70,000.

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Tony Christensen, David Harris, and Kamron Wootton
Financial Advisors
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