EBRI Issue Brief

2014 Update of the EBRI IRA Database: IRA Balances, Contributions, Rollovers, Withdrawals, and Asset Allocation

Aug 25, 2016 48  pages


This Issue Brief is the sixth annual cross-sectional analysis update of the EBRI IRA Database. It includes results on the distribution of individual retirement account (IRA) types and account balances, contributions, rollovers, withdrawals, and asset allocation in IRAs for 2014, the latest data available.

The EBRI IRA Database is an ongoing project of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) that collects data from IRA-plan administrators across the nation. For year-end 2014, it contains information on 26.7 million accounts owned by 21.1 million unique individuals, with total assets of $2.69 trillion. For accounts in the database, the IRA type, account balance, contributions made, rollovers transferred, and withdrawals taken during the year (if any), the asset allocation, and certain demographic characteristics of the account owner are included (among other items).

This update shows the importance of being able to measure not only the unique IRA account balances, but also the combination of all IRAs an individual owns to determine the potential total retirement savings the individual has by aggregating their multiple IRA accounts. Indeed, the overall, cumulative IRA average balance per individual is 27 percent larger than the IRA balance per account. Thus, databases that are not able to link separate accounts owned by the same individual within and across data providers are likely to understate the total IRA assets owned by individuals, and thus the total retirement accumulations held by individuals.

Here are the key findings in this annual update:

  • The average IRA account balance in the database was slightly more than $100,000 and the average IRA individual balance was $127,583, but the balances varied significantly by the IRA type: Roth IRAs had the lowest average balance, while Traditional IRAs had the highest average balance.
  • Just less than 12 percent of all accounts in the database received a contribution in 2014, but Roth IRAs were more likely to receive a contribution than Traditional IRAs (25.9 percent vs. 6.4 percent).
  • Rollovers in 2014 amounted to 15 times more than the total contributions in the database, with the average and median rollover to a Traditional IRA in 2014 being $97,174 and $25,827, respectively.
  • Almost 24 percent of individuals owning a Traditional or Roth IRA took a withdrawal in 2014, including 27.2 per-cent of Traditional IRA owners.
  • The overall IRA withdrawal percentage was largely driven by activity among individuals ages 70-½ or older owning a Traditional IRA--the group required to make withdrawals under the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules. In contrast, among owners under age 60, fewer than 12 percent of any age group had a withdrawal.
  • One-quarter of owners ages 71 or older was found to have withdrawn an amount from their Traditional IRA in excess of their RMD.
  • More than half of all IRA assets were allocated to equities, although this varied with owner age, account balance, and IRA type. There were minimal differences in asset allocations trends by gender.
  • Those older or owning a Traditional IRA had, on average, lower allocations to equities. Individuals with the largest balances had the lowest combined exposure to equities (including the equity share of balanced funds added to the pure equity funds).
  • Overall, 27.0 percent of IRAs had less than 10 percent in equities and 27.9 percent had more than 90 percent in equities, so called “extreme allocations” in a particular asset category. Furthermore, just short of 1 in 5 IRAs (17.2 percent) had more than 90 percent of their assets in bonds and money funds.