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Average, Median, Top 1%, and all United States Retirement Savings Percentiles in 2020

Written by:
PK

On this page are estimated United States retirement savings for 2020. Statistics are for households headed by adults aged 32-61 at the time of the survey (between February 2019 and early 2020).

You'll see average retirement savings, median retirement savings, top 1% retirement savings, and a retirement savings percentile calculator to rank a savings amount versus the adult population.

Perhaps more relevantly, later see our retirement savings by age post. For a fuller accounting of net worth in America (including assets such as businesses and real estate equity), see our net worth research and net worth by age research.

Retirement Savings Benchmarks in 2020

In 2020, American adults between 32 and 61 years old had on average $131,631.40 saved for retirement. Using an expansive definition, Americans averaged $282,554.50 in savings.

The median American adult had with $6,450.00 using a strict reading of retirement savings, and $21,120.00 with the more expansive definition. The top 1% of households had $1,770,500.00 and $4,436,800.00 earmarked for retirement, respectively.

Retirement savings statistics in the US in 2020

These numbers do not include estimated of social security value, by far the most common way people fund retirement today.

See further discussion below in the methodology section both on capitalizing income streams as well as the savings definitions.

Americans with No Retirement Savings

A sizable number of American adults had no retirement savings whatsoever. Here is the group size depending on your definition:

  • 43.09% of American adults had no retirement savings
  • 23.15% of American adults had no (or negative) retirement savings even including the extended assets

Retirement Savings Percentile Calculator

Want to compare an amount of retirement savings to the aggregate retirement savings for American adults? This tool has you covered.

In this tool, you can visualize a retirement savings amount versus other US households in 2020. Enter a retirement asset number and indicate if it's just strict retirement accounts or includes other assets. Then hit calculate, and the tool will show you where it lines up.

Retirement Savings Definitions and Methodology

Our data comes from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. For this series, we define American adults as 32-61 years old. The average age at retirement in the United states is just shy of 60 (with a median – and mode – of 62). This makes a good measure of 'adults' who mostly aren't retiring yet, and this group is also mostly no longer in training or education.

(It also matches adult definition in the fine work done on retirement at the Economics Policy Institute.)

My goal is not to cover every corner case of retirement savings – even if you do know someone who saves for retirement in baseball cards or silverware, the aggregate numbers will be close enough (arguably).

If you disagree with the categories, run your numbers yourself – it's straightforward to do using Berkeley's SDA Tool.

Also, note that the numbers include pensions with a cash payout component but does not capitalize periodic payouts without cash equivalents, such as Social Security. See the net worth post for more.

Strict Retirement Savings

For the strict definition, I use the variable RETQLIQ. (It's easiest to pull it yourself using Berkeley's SDA Tool).

In short, it includes IRAs, Keoghs, Pensions, and Thrift-type accounts (such as your 401(k) or 403(b)).

Expansive Retirement Savings

For the expansive definition, I start from FIN, or all financial assets. From that I remove checking accounts and prepaid cards (presumably people use those to spend – again, if you disagree, it's close enough but feel free to do the math yourself).

I then eliminate whole life insurance and trusts, which are generally estate planning tools. Finally, I remove miscellaneous assets – that's your baseball cards, silverware, and the like.

Here's the Berkeley financial asset flow chart [pdf] with my markups (red box = not included):

Retirement savings net worth flowchart, 2016

For past versions of this post, see here:

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