A Third of Americans Owned K Plans in 2001, a Fifth Had an IRA

May 20, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Nearly one in five adult Americans owned an individual retirement account (IRA) at the end of 2001 while more than a third had a 401(k), a new report indicated.

The report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) showed that 18.8% of workers 21 or older had an IRA (up from 16.8% in 1997), with an average balance of $37,015. Also, some 30.4% of workers 21 to 64 years old had a 401(k)-type plan – with a $36,244 average balance – with ownership up from 25.5% in the earlier period. The average balance was $36,244.

But the average account balances declined from 2000, largely because of declining equity markets, EBRI said. The median household wealth for individuals with a retirement account was significantly higher ($171,225) than that reported by households without such accounts ($41,117).

The report shows that, despite the growth in IRAs and 401(k)s, only a minority of the adult U.S. population owns at least one of the two main savings vehicles designed to help individuals save for retirement. “IRA and 401(k)s help a growing number of workers save for retirement,” said EBRI President and CEO Dallas Salisbury, “but there’s still a large population that cannot or do not take advantage of these plans, that doesn’t have them and will not derive any benefit from them.”

The research is based on the Census Bureau’s 2001 Panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation and is published in the May edition of EBRI Notes, “Retirement Accounts and Wealth, 2001.” More information about EBRI is at www.ebri.org .