Let’s be honest: It’s always interesting to find out how much money someone makes or how much they’ve saved for retirement. Most of us are curious how people in other industries and with different skills than us make and save money.
And some of the latest 401(k) data from Vanguard certainly piqued my interest. The research showed that the workers with the largest amount of money, on average, in their 401(k)s come from the agriculture, mining, and construction industries.
Here’s what the latest data says about which demographic groups are saving the most (and the least) and a few steps you can take to jumpstart your retirement investments.
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A closer look at America’s 401(k)s
Vanguard said that a combination of factors influences 401(k) balances, including someone’s income, age, and job tenure. The company also noted that these factors are intertwined, meaning that, generally speaking, the longer someone has been at their job, the more income they have and the more they may contribute to their retirement plan.
Here are the top five industries with the most money in the 401(k)s and how much they’ve saved on average:
- Agriculture, mining, and construction: $185,201
- Finance, insurance, and real estate: $160,975
- Media, entertainment, and leisure: $133,404
- Business, professional, and nonprofit: $133,228
- Manufacturing: $126,497
Some averages were influenced by age, income, and participation rates in 401(k)s. For example, 62% of employees under 25 participated in a retirement plan, while more than 86% of workers between 35 and 64 contributed to one.
Also, employees in the finance, insurance, and real estate industry group were the most likely to have a 401(k), with 9 out of 10 workers in this group a part of one. Meanwhile, just 67% of workers in the wholesale and retail trade group were enrolled.
Unsurprisingly, the higher a worker’s income, the more likely they are to have a 401(k). Vanguard’s data showed that 76% of eligible employees with an annual income between $30,000 and $50,000 had a 401(k) plan, compared to more than 90% of workers with incomes of $100,000 or higher.
As for the industries with the least amount of savings in their 401(k)s, here are the bottom three:
- Transportation, utilities, and communications: $100,729
- Wholesale and retail trade: $96,150
- Education and health $73,377
Vanguard also found that women at all income levels were more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored 401(k) program than men.
How to jumpstart your savings
Vanguard’s report says that the average 401(k) amount is $112,572, while the median balance is $27,376. No matter what industry you’re in or how much you have (or don’t have) in your 401(k), focusing your attention on jumpstarting your retirement savings will be worth the time.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few easy steps you can follow to get back on the retirement saving path:
- Enroll in your employer’s 401(k) plan: This can be as easy as speaking with someone in your company’s HR department and then filling out some simple paperwork.
- Sign up for an employer matching program: Many employers offer a 401(k) matching program, which matches the amount you contribute to the plan, up to a set amount of your income. For example, some companies may match 50% of your contributions until you reach 3% of your salary. No matter what matching plan your employer offers, remember that any money your employer puts into the plan is free money for you.
- Open a brokerage account: If you don’t have a job offering a 401(k), you may need to open your own brokerage account to start saving your retirement. These accounts allow you to buy stocks, bonds, or index funds. You can find a list of the best online brokers here.
- Automate your monthly savings: if you sign up for an employer-sponsored retirement account, you can opt to have a certain amount deducted from each paycheck. Automating savings is the best way to ensure you do it and keeps you from spending money that should be saved. You can still sign up for automatic deductions into your brokerage account if you don’t have an employer program.
Saving for retirement can seem overwhelming. But getting started now, rather than later, can have big benefits. The S&P 500 index has an annualized return (adjusted for inflation) of 7.3% over the past 30 years. Based on that assumption, if you invested $200 per month over 25 years, your retirement savings would turn into nearly $160,000.
While no estimate will be exact, the point is that the earlier you get started, the more time you’ll have to let compound interest do its work. And if you don’t have anything saved right now, there’s no time like the present to start.
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