Workers in certain industries tend to have higher 401(k) balances, Fidelity data show

To gauge your retirement readiness, you can compare your 401(k) balance to the progress of other savers. But you may find that people in your field are a better point of comparison than those in your age group.

Recent data from Fidelity reveals that 401(k) plan investors on the firm’s platform had an average 401(k) balance of $125,900 in the first quarter.

When broken down by age, the average balance was $241,200 for baby boomers. $178,500 for Gen X, $59,800 for millennials and $11,300 for General Z.

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Still comparing balances by industry can help savers better assess how they compare to their fellow workers.

Fidelity merged industry data so companies on its 401(k) platform can better understand the savings behavior of their employees, according to Mike Shamrell, vice president of thought leadership for workplace investing at Fidelity.

“We still have a lot of companies that are really in a war for talent,” Shamrell said, and their 401(k) plans are often a recruiting tool.

“They want to make sure what they’re doing is consistent with the companies they’re competing with for talent,” Shamrell said.

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The average 401(k) balance tends to be higher in higher-paying industries, he noted.

Legal services topped that list, with an average 401(k) balance of $306,400.

The petrochemical industry came in second at $255,500, followed by power generation/distribution at $214,400.

Industries with the lowest average 401(k) balances include retail, at $51,200; health care excluding physicians, at $66,600; and real estate, at $70,700.

What the experts say about focusing on the country

Instead of balance sheets, a better metric to gauge the success of workers’ retirement savings is their total savings rate, experts say. Fidelity generally advises workers to aim to put away 15% of their pre-tax income, including employer contributions, towards retirement.

Overall, Fidelity’s 401(k) participants had an average total savings rate of 14.2%, including employee and employer contributions closer to the firm’s recommended savings rate.

While workers may be distracted by how big they think their nest egg needs to be in order to retire with a recent Northwestern Mutual study suggesting people believe they need $1.46 million to live comfortably in retirement, experts say it’s generally best to focus on a high steady savings. rate.

Industries with the highest total savings rate include pharmaceuticals, with a total savings rate of 19.7%; petrochemical, 19.1%; and airlines, 18.4%.

Industries with the lowest average total savings rate include retail trade, 10.4%; health care, excluding doctors, with 10.9%; and construction and scientific and technical, each with 12.3%.

Where the employer’s contribution is more generous

Of course, to have a high total savings rate, it helps to have generous help from employers. The overall average employer contribution rate is 4.8%, according to Fidelity.

Industries where employer contribution rates are highest include petrochemicals, at 8.2%; and pharmaceuticals and airlines, each at 7.8%.

Industries where employer contribution rates are lowest include health care, excluding physicians, at 2.9%; retail trade, 3%; and scientific and technical, 3.1%.

To be sure, any retirement savings progress can be reduced if investors take out a 401(k) loan, as 17.8% of Fidelity plan participants did.

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