Average U.S. 401(k) balance tops $80,000, up 75 pct since 2009

BOSTON Wed May 22, 2013 11:59pm EDT

BOSTON May 23 (Reuters) - The average 401(k) retirement balance for U.S. workers hit a record high of $80,900 in the first quarter, a growth spurt of 75 percent since the stock market's nadir in March 2009, Fidelity Investments said on Thursday based on a survey of its accounts.

Most of the recovery is linked to a stock market rally that has lifted the broad S&P 500 Index 145 percent since the close of trading on March 9, 2009.

The 401(k) recovery looks even better for workers 55 and older, according to Boston-based Fidelity, the largest U.S. administrator of 401(k) retirement plans. Those pre-retirement workers have seen their average balance nearly double to $255,000 since the first quarter of 2009 when the average balance was $130,700. The analysis covers people who have been with their current employer 10 or more years, Fidelity said.

But a small percentage (1.6 percent) of pre-retirees have not seen as much of a rebound because they abandoned stocks during the tumult of the financial crisis. Their average balance grew only 26 percent to $101,000 over the same period, Fidelity said.

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