EBRI Issue Brief

IRA Balances and Contributions: An Overview of the EBRI IRA Database

Sep 21, 2010 20  pages


NEW IRA DATABASE: The Employee Benefit Research Institute® created the EBRI IRA DatabaseTM in order to more closely examine retirement savings behavior. The EBRI IRA DatabaseTM is able to link individuals within and across the data providers and will also be able to link the data with participants in 401(k) plans, allowing retirement funds to be tracked as they are generated, rolled over, and ultimately used. This Issue Brief is the first of a series of publications analyzing the EBRI IRA Database,TM and highlights the distribution of IRA owners by IRA type, average and median account balances, and contributions to IRAs. The data security techniques used by the data providers assure that EBRI has no ability to identify individuals so that all privacy is assured.

IRA TYPES: In the EBRI IRA Database,TM IRAs are classified into four types: traditional (originating from contributions), rollovers from other retirement plans, Roth, and SEP/SIMPLE. The distribution of the IRA accounts is 33.6 percent traditional IRAs; 33.4 percent rollover IRAs (combined with the traditional IRAs, 67 percent); 23.4 percent Roth IRAs; the remaining 9.6 percent are SEPs and SIMPLEs.

OWNERSHIP BY AGE AND GENDER: IRA owners were more likely to be male, especially those having a rollover or a SEP/SIMPLE IRA. Among all IRA participants in the database, nearly one-half (48.3 percent) were ages 45–64. Only 16.7 percent of those owning a traditional IRA were under age 45, compared with 46.5 percent for those with a Roth, 30.4 percent for rollovers, and 34.8 percent for those with a SEP or SIMPLE.

AVERAGE AND MEDIAN BALANCES: The average and median IRA account balance in 2008 was $54,863 and $15,756, respectively, while the average and median IRA individual balance (all accounts from the same person combined) was $69,498 and $20,046. Individuals with a rollover balance had the highest average and median balance at $91,783 and $31,264. Roth owners had the lowest average and median balance at $14,056 and $7,319. The average and median individual IRA balance increased with age before leveling off for those age 70 or older.


Averages—The average amount contributed to an IRA in the database was $3,665 in 2008. The average contribution was highest for accounts owned by those ages 65–69. More contributions were made to Roth accounts than to traditional (combined traditional and rollover) accounts. However, the average contribution to a traditional account was higher, at $3,798, compared with $3,580 to a Roth account. Yet, a higher overall amount was contributed to Roth IRAs ($3.4 billion for Roths compared with $2.3 billion for traditional accounts).

By type—Focusing only on those owning traditional, rollover, or Roth IRAs, 12.1 percent of the accounts were contributed to, and 15.1 percent of the individuals owning these IRA types contributed to them in 2008. When combining the owners of traditional and rollover IRAs (which are considered the same type for contribution purposes), 7.2 percent contributed, while 29.5 percent of those owning a Roth IRA contributed to a Roth IRA.

Maxing out—Of those individuals contributing, 42.4 percent contributed the maximum amount. Of those contributing to a traditional or rollover IRA, 43.4 percent maxed out, while 40.2 percent did so with a Roth IRA.