What Does Consistent Participation in 401(k) Plans Generate? Changes in 401(k) Account Balances, 2007-2012
28 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2014
Date Written: July 2014
This paper analyzes changes in 401(k) account balances of consistent participants in the EBRI/ICI 401(k) database over the five-year period from year-end 2007 to year-end 2012. About 34 percent, or 7.5 million, of the 401(k) participants with accounts at the end of 2007 in the EBRI/ICI 401(k) database are in the consistent sample. Analysis of a consistent group of 401(k) participants highlights the impact of ongoing participation in 401(k) plans. The analysis also looks at changes in asset allocation between year-end 2007 and year-end 2012. Overall, the average account balance of consistent 401(k) participants increased at a compound annual average growth rate of 6.8 percent from 2007 to 2012, to $107,053 at year-end 2012. The median 401(k) account balance increased at a compound annual average growth rate of 11.9 percent over the period, to $49,814 at year-end 2012. At year-end 2012, the average account balance among consistent participants was 67 percent higher than the average account balance among all participants in the EBRI/ICI 401(k) database. The consistent group’s median balance was almost three times the median balance across all participants at year-end 2012. Younger participants or those with smaller initial balances experienced higher percent growth in account balances compared with older participants or those with larger initial balances. Three primary factors impact account balances: contributions, investment returns, and withdrawal/loan activity. The percent change in average account balance of participants in their 20s was heavily influenced by the relative size of their contributions to their account balances and increased at a compound average growth rate of 41.8 percent per year between year-end 2007 and year-end 2012. 401(k) participants tend to concentrate their accounts in equity securities. The asset allocation of the 7.5 million 401(k) plan participants in the consistent group was broadly similar to the asset allocation of the 24.0 million participants in the entire year-end 2012 EBRI/ICI 401(k) database. On average, about three-fifths of 401(k) participants’ assets were invested in equities, either through equity funds, the equity portion of target-date funds, the equity portion of non-target-date balanced funds, or company stock. Younger 401(k) participants tend to have higher concentrations in equities than older 401(k) participants. More consistent 401(k) plan participants held target-date funds at year-end 2012 than at year-end 2007, on net; a third of those with target-date funds held all of their 401(k) account in target-date funds.
Keywords: 401(k) account balances, 401(k) plans, Asset allocation, Employment-based benefits, Financial crisis, Pension plan assets, Pension plan participation, Self-directed investments, Target-date funds
JEL Classification: D31, G11, G12, G23, J26, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation