Want a happy surprise about your money for a change? Try opening your 401k statement the next time it comes in the mail instead of throwing it away.
That's because the bull market is finally showing up in retirement accounts. Nine in 10 retirement plans are back to where they were in October 2007, the peak of the stock market.
Continue Reading Below
Since the bull market began in March 2009, stocks have almost doubled. Naturally, part of the boom in retirement stashes has been because people continued socking away their own money.
On average, 401k investors put in about 8% of their pay from 2003 to 2006. The youngest workers with the shortest time on the job saw the biggest recovery, according to an analysis of data from the employee benefit research institute conducted by the Associated Press. That makes sense because new contributions are the biggest proportion of their accounts.
Workers with one to four years on the job saw their balances rise by more than 50% since 2007. Average account balances ranged from $18,000 for the youngest workers to $39,000 for older ones.
If you have five to nine years on the job, your account balance was 2 to 4% higher than 2007. Your account balance? $36,000 to $70,000.
Those with 10 to 29 years on the job haven't recovered their losses. Their balances on March 1 were still 5 to 8% lower than the market's peak and, their average account balance was $44,000 for younger workers in the group up to $187,000 for the oldest.
Older workers with 30 or more years on the job are up just 1%. The average account balances range from $175,000 for those aged 46 to 55, to $217,000 for those aged 56 to 65. The difference between this group and the next younger group is that they may well have had less money in stocks and a more conservative asset allocation to begin with.
The bottom line? Investors who stuck with a strategy rather than timing the market performed best. Those who withdrew money during the bear market generally missed the rally.Time in the market is more important than timing the market.