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Here's how much — or little — the typical American has in a 401(k)

Maximize retirement savings with these tips
Use these simple strategies to help increase your retirement contributions 04:03

Recent data on how much money people have tucked away in their 401(k) plans highlights just how far most Americans have to go to reach their retirement savings goals.

As of the third quarter, 401(k) participants whose plan was managed by Fidelity Investments had a median balance of $23,800, according to recent data from the wealth management firm. Savings were even slimmer for other types of retirement plan, with median savings of $20,600 for 403(b) accounts and $14,500 for individual retirement accounts. 

One measure of how many people are likely to fall short: An August survey from brokerage firm Charles Schwab found that Americans say they need $1.8 million to retire comfortably

Fidelity's data, which is based on an analysis of the roughly 45 million retirement accounts it manages, also shows stark differences in account balances across different generations. Perhaps not surprisingly, given they've had longer to save, baby boomers lead all groups in money saved with an average of $212,600 saved in 401(k) accounts, $196,600 in 403(b) accounts and $201,640 in IRAs. 

Yet many boomers are headed toward retirement without a penny saved, a Credit Karma survey found earlier this year. Likewise, millions of Generation-X Americans have only $40,000 in savings, according to a July report from the National Institute on Retirement Security.

One of the best ways to boost a 401(k) balance is to funnel pay raises from your employer into the retirement account, according to Kamila Elliott, a certified financial planner in Georgia. Elliott told CBS News earlier this month that Americans don't make adjustments to their employer-sponsored retirement account as often as they should. 

"They auto-enroll in the 401(k) plan, but they never increase their contribution as they make more money," Elliott said. 

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