U.S. workers stash more cash into 401(k)s

How's your nest egg? How's your nest egg? Photo Credit: iStock

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Workers continued to stash more money in their 401(k) plans in the second quarter, but the stock market's modest decline left them slightly further behind in reaching their savings goals.

Fidelity Investments, the nation's largest 401(k) administrator, said yesterday that the average balance among its nearly 12 million account holders was $72,800 at the end of June. That's 2.4 percent less than at the end of March, and largely unchanged from last year's second-quarter average.

It didn't help that the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 2.8 percent during this year's second quarter. Investors worried about the European debt crisis and slow economic growth at home.

Workers' 401(k)s are typically invested in bonds along with stocks to help reduce volatility. A broad U.S. bond market index rose nearly 2.1 percent in the second quarter, helping to offset some of the stock market's decline.

Damage to account balances also was reduced because workers set aside more from their paychecks, and employers increased 401(k) matching contributions.

The average employee contribution in the latest quarter was $1,660, up $30 from the same quarter a year ago. Their employers contributed an average $950, also up $30.

Account balances have shown healthy growth through the first half of the year due to higher contributions and strong first-quarter stock market performance. The average employee contribution in Fidelity-administered 401(k) plans has remained steady at around 8 percent of annual pay for the past three years.

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