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The average 401(k) balance by age, income level, gender, and industry

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Alyssa Powell/Insider

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The average 401(k) account balance in 2020 was $106,478, an increase from 2019's $92,148 average, according to according to Vanguard data.

Each year, Vanguard analyzes account data from 5 million retirement accounts. Across these accounts, the typical account balance varies widely by the method used to calculate it — while the average 401(k) savings balance is over $100,000, the median account balance is much less at $25,775, according to Vanguard's latest data.

But there are several factors that influence the typical amount that people have to retire. In general, account balances increase with age and income level, as well as the industry you work in and your gender.

Average 401(k) balance by age

Retirement savings are invested, so they grow with compound interest, which means account balances increase with time. Like other types of retirement accounts, money saved in a 401(k) grows like a snowball, with interest earning interest on itself.

With compounding interest, the earlier money is put into an account, the more opportunity it has to grow, and the greater the possible returns. In retirement accounts like 401(k)s, building retirement savings early means a greater opportunity for growth. 

Here's the average amount people have saved for retirement by age group, according to Vanguard's data.

Age Average 401(k) balanceMedian 401(k) balance
Under 25$5,419$1,817
25 to 34$26,839$10,402
35 to 44$72,578$26,188
45 to 54$135,777$46,363
55 to 64$197,322$69,097
65 and up$216,720$64,548

Average 401(k) balance by income level

Vanguard's data shows that 401(k) balances are greatly influenced by annual income. Across all age groups, the amount people save for retirement increases with their earnings. 

The most significant increase in 401(k) balances comes after the $50,000-per-year mark. While workers earning between $30,000 and $49,999 per year have a median balance of $6,909, workers in the next-highest bracket earning between $50,000 and $74,999 have a median balance more than three times larger, at $27,630.

Annual income Average 401(k) balanceMedian 401(k) balance
Less than $15,000$8,260$1,356
$15,000 to $29,999$13,069$4,020
$30,000 to $49,999$29,740$10,439
$50,000 to $74,999$66,033$27,630
$75,000 to $99,999$113,143$54,020
$100,000 to $149,999$177,597$91,470
$150,000 and above$298,851$154,989

Average 401(k) balance by gender

In general, men save more for retirement than women. 

Across all age levels, Vanguard's data indicates that women have a median 401(k) account balance about $10,000 less than that of men. A gender pay gap contributes to lower retirement savings, with the average woman earning 82 cents for every man's dollar.

Because income is tied to 401(k) account balances, this gender pay gap has an effect. Here's the typical amount a person of each gender reported — men and women were the only genders considered in this study — has saved for retirement across all ages and incomes.

Gender identityAverage 401(k) balanceMedian 401(k) balance
Men$131,045$34,246
Women$88,393$22,434

While a large disparity in savings exists, women often need greater retirement savings than men to retire comfortably. Women tend to live longer and could therefore need more long-term care than men, which could require greater spending in retirement.

Average 401(k) balance by industry

According to Vanguard data, balances vary widely between industries. Retirement-savings matches, in which an employer matches an employee's contributions to their savings up to a given percentage, may be more common in some industries than others. Earnings could also affect how workers in a specific industry save.

Here's how the average balances break down by industry, according to Vanguard's data.

Industry Average balanceMedian balance
Agriculture, mining, construction$161,065$39,869
Finance, insurance, real estate$128,864$33,390
Business, professional, nonprofit$127,647$28,830
Manufacturing$123,843$36,639
Transportation, utilities, communications$95,476$23,518
Media, entertainment, leisure$88,636$23,924
Education and health$81,374$19,589
Wholesale, retail$71,795$13,089

People who work in agriculture, mining, and construction do a significant amount of saving, with the average industry worker's account balance over $160,000. However, teachers and healthcare workers, and people who work in wholesale and retail, tend to lag behind, with average account balances under $70,000.

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