Vanguard How America Saves 2018: How Does Your 401k Compare?

Vanguard recently released How America Saves 2018 report [PDF], which looks at the nearly 5 million 401k, 403b, and other defined-contribution retirement plans that they service. If you are curious about how your 401k stats compare with others, there is a great deal of information in this report. Here are a few quick stats based on 2017 data:

  • Average aggregate contribution rate amongst participants was 10.3% (employer and employee total).
  • Average maximum “employer match” contribution was 7% of income. Nearly 2/3rds of participants received the maximum employer match.
  • Average employee contribution was 6.8% of income.
  • Maxing out. 13% of participants saved the maximum annual amount of $18,000 ($24,000 age 50+) for 2017.
  • Average account balance was $103,866; the median balance was $26,331. A small number of plans with very high balances skews this often-quoted average upward.
  • Target-date funds. 58% of participants had their entire account balance invested in a single target-date fund or similar managed allocation. In other words, 58% let someone else pick their portfolio.
  • Automatic enrollment. Plans with automatic enrollment have a 92% participation rate.
  • Withdrawals and rollovers. About 1/3rd of participants could have cashed out their balance (with taxes and penalties) because they switched jobs. 84% of those folks kept their money in retirement plans. In terms of assets, 98% of all plan assets available for distribution were preserved and only 2% were taken in cash.
  • Loans. 15% of participants had a loan outstanding at year-end 2017.

These numbers don’t tell the entire story, as the average includes workers across different age groups, income levels, job tenures, and so on.


  1. 15% have a loan??

  2. Where I work, the company match is 6%. Didn’t realize the average is 7%. Our average balance according to Brightscope is $200,000

    The percentage of those with a loan, I think is higher at my company. It’s surprising how many people take 401k loans. Some have two simultaneous loans. Also our most popular fund, is a bond returning something in the neighborhood of 2%

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