According to new data from Fidelity Investments, the only workers whose 401(k) balances grew in 2022 were Gen Z savers decades away from retirement.
While the average nest egg among Fidelity’s accounts lost 23% in 2022, Gen Z employees born between 1997 and 2012 posted a 14% gain, according to the investment firm and retirement plan provider. Every other age group lost money. This wasn’t a smart investment or beginner’s luck, but the luck of not having invested that much while markets plummeted, the data suggests.
Generation Z still had much of its investment in the stock market, as 84% of Gen Z savers had all their investments in target date funds, portfolios that shift from stocks to bonds as people age. For workers in their 20s, such portfolios are highly exposed to stocks.
Despite the market turmoil, most investors continued to save for retirement.
As younger savers started the year with relatively low balances, their contributions more than offset the impact of market losses. Gen Z workers saved an average of 10% of their salary, including company match, Fidelity said. They had an average balance of $6,000, compared to $103,900 for all retirement savers.
Generation Z savers also benefited from automatic enrollment in their 401(k)s, as more companies have a standard contribution rate between 3% and 6%, leading more of them to save, said Michael Shamrell, vice president of Fidelity.
On the other hand, 401(k) savers with large balances took a hit in 2022.
There were 299,000 401(k) millionaires at the end of 2022, down 32% from 442,000 a year earlier. These are long-term savers who average 60 years old, Mr. Shamrell said. Over time, he expects these accounts to rebound.
“The hope is that if they keep saving and market conditions improve a little bit, they’ll get back above that milestone,” he said.
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