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Average 401(k) rebounds to $60,700, Fidelity says

November 19, 2009 |  2:00 pm

For what it’s worth: Fidelity Investments says the average 401(k) account balance of the 11 million investors for whom it keeps records rose to $60,700 as of Sept. 30, surpassing the $58,400 average of a year earlier -- which was just before the financial-system meltdown accelerated.

Although financial markets have rebounded sharply this year, the Fidelity figure doesn’t mean that the investments in the typical account more than recouped what was lost in the meltdown. The totals include all employee and employer contributions to the accounts, so the money coming in would have offset some of the prior losses.

Still, psychologically it always feels better to look at a higher 401(k) total than a lower one.

Fidelity’s average balance now is well above the recent low of $47,500 reached at the end of the first quarter, but remains 13.3% below the recent peak of $70,000 in the third quarter of 2007.

The average is skewed by the large accounts of people who are nearing retirement. Fidelity’s median 401(k) account balance was $19,500 as of Sept. 30, up from $17,300 a year earlier.

The median is the middle of the pack -- meaning that half the accounts were above that figure and half were below.

-- Tom Petruno