401(k) is a type of retirement account that’s provided through your employer and uses pre-tax money to help you save up for your non-working years. Because most employers automatically enroll employees in a certain 401(k) plan and contributions can be automatically deducted from their paychecks, those who participate can avoid much of the hassle of saving for retirement.

The process raises two important questions: Firstly, how much money should someone have in their 401(k) for retirement and secondly, how much money do people who are preparing to retire actually have in their 401(k) accounts?

While the answer to the first question has a lot to do with when you plan to retire and the type of lifestyle you want to have when that happens, there are a few guidelines you can follow no matter where you are in your retirement savings process to help get you there — Select recently covered how much money you should have saved at every age if you want to fully explore that topic.

As for the second question, Select used information from Vanguard’s 2021 How America Saves Survey to dig deeper into what the average American retiree’s 401(k) balance looks like. According to the survey, participants reported the following amounts:

  • Average 401(k) balance of ages 45–54: $161,079 (average); $56,722 (median)
  • Average 401(k) balance of ages 55–64: $232,379 (average); $84,714 (median)
  • Average 401(k) balance of ages 65 and older: $255,151 (average); $82,297 (median)

While it can feel nice to have an idea of how much other people have stashed away, keep in mind that personal retirement savings goals can differ based on the type of lifestyle you want to enjoy during retirement. If you plan to travel regularly and make expensive purchases you may not have made when you were younger, for instance, you’re going to need to have a considerable amount of money saved up. If you hope to have a less expensive lifestyle, stay close to family and pick up a few new hobbies, you can probably get away with having a smaller balance.