It’s important to do what you can to save well for retirement. If you don’t bring a decent-sized nest egg with you into retirement, you might end up struggling financially once your career comes to an end and you stop collecting a steady paycheck.
It’s an especially poor idea to aim to retire on Social Security alone. Those benefits will only replace about 40% of your pre-retirement earnings, assuming two things — that you earn an average wage and benefits aren’t cut in the future. Since most seniors need more than 40% of their previous income to live comfortably, having savings is key.
Meanwhile, recent data from Fidelity shows an uptick in IRA balances from a year ago. Here’s what the typical saver is looking at.
The average IRA balance today
As of the third quarter of 2023, the average IRA balance was $109,600. That’s a 4% decline from the second quarter of the year but an 8% increase from the year prior.
A big reason IRA balances likely declined during the third quarter of the year was September’s volatile stock market. In fact, it may be that IRA balances are up now, compared to where they sat at the end of 2023’s third quarter. But until Fidelity releases more recent data, we can’t say for sure.
What to do if your IRA isn’t growing the way you want it to
You might see your IRA balance decline from one quarter to another. And that’s not particularly alarming, especially if it’s consistent with broad market conditions. What may be more problematic, however, is if your IRA balance doesn’t seem to pick up over time.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to do a few things. First, check your savings rate. Is it increasing from one year to the next?
One of the easiest ways to boost your savings rate is to bank the raise you get each year, since it’s money you’re not used to living on. (Of course, if you haven’t gotten a raise in years, that’s a different conversation — and one that may need to involve a job search.)
Next, check to see how your IRA is invested. If you’re not within a few years of retirement, your goal should be to load up your IRA with a broad mix of stocks or broad market index funds that keep you invested in the stock market. Playing it too safe in your IRA could lead to stagnant growth, which could get in the way of meeting your retirement goals.
It may also be that you happened to choose some particularly poor stocks for your IRA. Dive into each one’s performance and consider replacing a consistent loser with a stock that has better potential.
It’s encouraging to see that IRA balances are up from a year ago. And it’s not particularly surprising to see a decline from the second quarter of the year. Just keep in mind that building up a strong nest egg is a process, so try not to get down if your balance recently took a dive. Instead, look forward and focus on the steps you can take to grow your IRA from this point onward.