Here's how much Americans have in their retirement accounts — and what it means for you

Fidelity Investment’s latest analysis of its retirement accounts reveals Americans have, on average, six-figure balances in their IRA and 401(k) retirement accounts. As of the fourth quarter of 2022, the average balances in an IRA, 401(k) and 403(b) were (respectively) $104,000, $103,900 and $92,683.

Despite recent inflation and high prices, Fidelity found that most retirement savers are continuing to contribute to their accounts. In fact, more than one-third of savers increased their contribution rate over the last year. If you’re struggling to save for retirement, CNBC Select has some tips on how you can continue to fund your future even during an uncertain economy.

What the average retirement balances mean for you

Everyone’s journey to retirement looks different and only you (and your financial planner if you have one) can know if you’re on track to enjoying your golden years in comfort. But knowing how much Americans save on average can help motivate you to take the below actions if your own savings fall short of that number.

Pay your future self first by automating your retirement savings

Do yourself a favor and set up an autopay that puts a portion of each paycheck into a retirement fund before it hits your bank account. If your employer pays you with direct deposit, you can likely ask them to do this for you. This prevents you from spending that cash and becoming accustomed to living on an income that doesn’t account for your retirement plans.

Meet your employer’s 401(k) match

If your employer offers a 401(k) match, do your best to contribute enough to meet that match. For example, if your company matches dollar-for-dollar the first 6% of your paycheck, you’d want to contribute at least 6% to get that full match. This would mean both you and the employer each contribute 6% — equating to a total contribution of 12% of your salary. Fidelity’s standard guideline is to save at least 15% of your gross income annually for retirement (including any employer match), so this example — and in general the idea of easily doubling your savings via an employer match — comes pretty close to achieving that.

But what if my employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) option?

Not all employees have access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan — let alone a company match. But you can still take advantage of other retirement-saving vehicles such as a traditional or Roth IRA. (And even if you do have a 401(k), adding an IRA as well to the mix can broaden your investment choices and help you save more.)

In fact, according to the same Fidelity retirement analysis, Roth IRAs are the most popular retirement-saving vehicle, with 61.3% of all contributions across generations going into a Roth in the fourth quarter. With a Roth IRA, savers pay taxes upfront by contributing after-tax dollars. That means the withdrawals they take during retirement are tax-free (as long as their account has been open for at least five years). Roth IRAs are a smart choice for those who expect to be in a lower tax bracket today than when they retire.

CNBC Select ranked the best Roth IRAs and below are our top picks:

Start small if you have to — just start

While you want to save as much as you can toward your retirement (without derailing your other financial goals), you can start small. The goal here is just to start; the earlier the better thanks to compound interest, meaning your money is making more money over time.

For those with a 401(k) through their employer, check to see if the plan offers a feature called “automatic escalation,” which means that your contribution amount will automatically increase each year up to a certain limit. For example, your contributions could automatically increase by 1% every year so that you’re slowly building toward the matching amount, and beyond.

Leave your retirement savings alone

401(k) and IRAs are investment accounts, meaning any savings you put there are typically invested in the stock market. Like most other investments, your savings will fluctuate in value along with the overall market. Your best move regardless of what the market does? Leave your retirement funds alone.

In fact, constantly watching the markets is actually what experts deem one of the biggest investing mistakes, since you may feel compelled to make changes based on unpredictable, short-term activity. You should hold investments for as long as you can to maximize your returns, and this is particularly true with retirement accounts, which traditionally have the longest time horizon.

If you want to get more actively involved in the markets using money that isn’t earmarked for retirement, robo-advisors have become a popular choice for both novice and seasoned investors. Betterment and Wealthfront are good options that charge low annual advisory fees and help you create an investment strategy and portfolio based on your individual risk tolerance.


  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For example, Betterment doesn’t require clients to maintain a minimum investment account balance, but there is a ACH deposit minimum of $10. Premium Investing requires a $100,000 minimum balance.

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. For Betterment Digital Investing, 0.25% of your fund balance as an annual account fee; Premium Investing has a 0.40% annual fee

  • Bonus

    Up to $5,000 managed free for a year with a qualifying deposit within 45 days of signup. Valid only for new individual investment accounts with Betterment LLC

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash

  • Educational resources

    Betterment offers retirement and other education materials

Terms apply. Does not apply to crypto asset portfolios.


  • Minimum deposit and balance

    Minimum deposit and balance requirements may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. $500 minimum deposit for investment accounts

  • Fees

    Fees may vary depending on the investment vehicle selected. Zero account, transfer, trading or commission fees (fund ratios may apply). Wealthfront annual management advisory fee is 0.25% of your account balance

  • Bonus

  • Investment vehicles

  • Investment options

    Stocks, bonds, ETFs and cash. Additional asset classes to your portfolio include real estate, natural resources and dividend stocks

  • Educational resources

    Offers free financial planning for college planning, retirement and homebuying

Terms apply.

Subscribe to the Select Newsletter!

Our best selections in your inbox. Shopping recommendations that help upgrade your life, delivered weekly. Sign-up here.

Bottom line

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.