While there are now fewer 401(k) millionaires, many investors still made smart moves

  • When you receive your retirement plan statements for the fourth quarter of 2018, you may notice that your accounts are down.
  • Market volatility helped drive 401(k), IRA and 403(b) account balances down, according to the latest data from Fidelity.
  • While there are now fewer 401(k) millionaires, there is good news: Investors, by and large, made smart choices.
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The markets have recovered from their year-end turbulence. Still, you'll likely see the negative effects of that turmoil when you open up your latest 401(k) statement.

Average account balances for 401(k), 403(b) and individual retirement accounts dropped for the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the previous quarter, according to Fidelity Investments.

The average 401(k) plan balance fell 10 percent to $95,600 from $106,500 in the third quarter.

The average IRA balance, meanwhile, dropped 11 percent to $98,400 from $111,000 in the third quarter.

The data is based on information from more than 30 million Fidelity retirement accounts.

The chart below shows how average retirement account balances have over time.

Average retirement account balances

Account type
Q4 2018
Q3 2018
Q4 2017
Q4 2008
401(k) $95,600 $106,500 $104,300 $49,000
IRA $98,400 $111,000 $106,300 $52,000
Tax exempt/403(b) $78,700 $87,500 $85,100 $37,600
Source: Fidelity Investments

The number of 401(k) and IRA millionaires also declined, according to Fidelity. Those people with $1 million or more in their 401(k) plans dropped to 133,800 at the end of the fourth quarter, while the number of people with $1 million or more in their IRAs fell to 138,800.

Despite the fact that balances fell, there were a few positive trends among savers.

First, people did not make dramatic changes to their investments, despite the market volatility, Fidelity's data shows. Just 5.6 percent of account holders made significant changes to their asset allocations in the fourth quarter.

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Second, the portion of investors who regularly contribute to their retirement savings accounts rose to more than 99 percent in the fourth quarter — the highest since the first quarter of 2011. In 2018, the average total 401(k) contribution was $6,850 and the average total IRA contribution was $4,200.

Third, the number of workers who took loans from their 401(k) plans dropped to a 10-year low. The portion of workers with outstanding loans from their 401(k) plans fell to lowest level since the second quarter of 2009, according to Fidelity.