Your 401(k) May Actually Be Worth Something Again

We know a lot of people simply stopped looking at their quarterly 401(k) account statements a few years ago, hoping and praying the market would eventually recover and they would someday see all that money lost when the economy went SPLLLAATTT!!. Well, it may be time to take a peek at your next statement, as the latest numbers show very positive signs of recovery.

According to a new report from Fidelity Investments, the average 401(k) account balance is now $74,600. That’s a pleasant 62% increase from when things bottomed out in the first quarter of 2009 and we were all averaging $46,200.

A Fidelity VP attributes the growth to both improvements in the markets and to Americans’ renewed interest in, well… earning interest.

“We’re seeing the benefits of strong markets,” she tells Bloomberg. “We saw the account balance growth more attributable to the market than contributions.”

Fidelity says that around 10% of people with 401(k) accounts increased their savings rate during the first quarter of 2012, while only 4% decreased the amount they were stashing away for the future. Back in the same quarter in 2009, only 5.7% increased their savings rate while 6.4% tightened their belts and decreased the amount they were saving.

At the end of 2011, all 401(k) accounts were worth a total of $3.1 trillion. Lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would lower the cap on pre-tax contributions to 401(k) accounts. Currently, workers under the age of 50 can contribute up to $17,000 annually. Those who are at least 50 years old can contribute another $5,500 each year.

The cash-strapped government is thinking that maybe we don’t need all those tax breaks, which resulted in $130 billion in revenue the feds didn’t get their hands on last year.

Average 401(k) Balance 62% Above 2009, Fidelity Says [Bloomberg]