EBRI Issue Brief

The Status of American Families' Accumulations in Individual Account Retirement Plans: An Analysis of the 2022 Survey of Consumer Finances

Jun 20, 2024 22  pages


Individual account (IA) retirement plans are the dominant source of financial assets for retirement among current and future retirees, and they continue to grow.

Individual account (IA) plans include employment-based retirement savings plans financed by both employer and employee contributions (most notably, defined contribution (DC) plans such as 401(k) plans), as well as Keogh plans for the self-employed and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for savings outside of the workplace (and in certain cases, they are a workplace savings plan).

This Issue Brief assesses the status of American families' accumulations in IA plans, both in terms of ownership and amounts accumulated. The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the Federal Reserve’s triennial survey of wealth, is the basis for this study.

The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) is a leading source of data on Americans’ wealth, as it provides information on the incidence of retirement plan ownership and account balances that families have accumulated along with all the other assets that families may have amassed. The questions in SCF allow for not only the calculation of the percentage of families owning individual retirement accounts (IRAs), but also for estimation of the distribution of IRA assets across types — regular, rollover, and Roth IRAs.

The retirement landscape continues to shift:

  • In 2022, 63.9 percent of all families who had an active participant in an employment-based retirement plan from a current employer had a defined contribution (DC) plan only. This was up from 37.5 percent in 1992.
  • Among these families with an active participant, a significant shift occurred from 1992 to 2022: The percentage having a defined benefit (DB) plan only decreased from 40.0 percent in 1992 to 15.6 percent in 2022.
  • The percentage of families with both types of plans decreased from 22.5 percent in 1992 to 20.5 percent in 2022.

Individual accounts are an important financial resource:

  • The average account balance of those families with assets in an IA plan increased from $91,881 in 1992 and from $299,598 in 2019 to $334,097 in 2022.
  • As DC plans have proliferated in the private sector, the assets in all IA retirement plans have become the predominate source of financial assets for American families holding DC plan assets. In 2022, among families owning IA assets, 65 percent of their financial assets were IA assets at the median.
  • Not only do IA assets make up a large portion of families’ financial assets, but those with IA assets also have substantially higher levels of net worth than those families without IA assets. The median net worth for families who owned IA assets was $442,900 in 2022 compared with $47,450 for families without IA assets.