Rising market sends 401(k) balances to new highs

The soaring stock market has beefed up retirement accounts for American workers.

Fidelity Investments looked at the 401(k) accounts it manages for 13 million workers and found that the average balance rose 12.9 percent at the end of the second quarter to a record high of $91,000. That's an impressive increase from an average balance of $80,600 just a year ago.

And remember, that's the average among workers of all ages, from those just starting their careers to those approaching retirement. For workers who have had a workplace retirement plan for 10 years or more, the average balance was a record $246,200.

Fidelity also found that the average IRA account balance at the end of the quarter was $92,600, an increase of nearly 15 percent from a year ago.

Workers can thank the equities market for most of those gains. About 77 percent of the growth was fueled by a market that just won't quit. The remaining 23 percent was due to worker and employer contributions.

Stocks have been hitting numerous records all summer, with the Dow Jones industrials index topping 17,000 for the first time and the Standard & Poor's 500 nearing 2,000. Those gains have come even as volatility has plummeted. It seems that nothing can shake the market lately -- even last Thursday's dive because of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight over Eastern Ukraine and Israel's invasion of Gaza was quickly overcome on Friday.

Still, despite those spiking retirement balances, many Americans aren't saving enough to live on in their golden years, experts say. Fidelity says workers should have eight times their annual salary saved for retirement, according to CNN Money. And one in four Americans aren't saving at all for retirement, according to the Country Financial Security Index.

  • Kim Peterson

    Kim Peterson is a financial journalist covering business and the economy. She has written for several online and print publications, including MSN Money and The Seattle Times.