News and Resources

Retirement Assets Total $34.9 Trillion
in Fourth Quarter 2020

Washington, DC; March 18, 2021—Total US retirement assets were $34.9 trillion as of December 31, 2020, up 7.5 percent from September and up 9.3 percent for the year. Retirement assets accounted for 33 percent of all household financial assets in the United States at the end of December 2020.

US Total Retirement Market Assets
Trillions of dollars, end-of-period, selected periods

e Data are estimated.

Note: For definitions of plan categories, see Table 1 in "The US Retirement Market, Fourth Quarter 2020." Components may not add to the total because of rounding.

Assets in individual retirement accounts (IRAs) totaled $12.2 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, an increase of 9.1 percent from the end of the third quarter of 2020. Defined contribution (DC) plan assets were $9.6 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter, up 6.8 percent from September 30, 2020. Government defined benefit (DB) plans— including federal, state, and local government plans—held $7.1 trillion in assets as of the end of December 2020, a 7.6 percent increase from the end of September 2020. Private-sector DB plans held $3.4 trillion in assets at the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, and annuity reserves outside of retirement accounts accounted for another
$2.5 trillion.

Retirement Assets by Type
Billions of dollars, end-of-period, 2020:Q3–2020:Q4

e Data are estimated.

Sources: Investment Company Institute and Federal Reserve Board

Defined Contribution Plans

Americans held $9.6 trillion in all employer-based DC retirement plans on December 31, 2020, of which $6.7 trillion was held in 401(k) plans. In addition to 401(k) plans, at the end of the fourth quarter, $600 billion was held in other private-sector DC plans, $1.2 trillion in 403(b) plans, $384 billion in 457 plans, and $739 billion in the Federal Employees Retirement System’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Mutual funds managed $4.4 trillion, or 66 percent, of assets held in 401(k) plans at the end of December 2020. With $2.6 trillion, equity funds were the most common type of funds held in 401(k) plans, followed by $1.2 trillion in hybrid funds, which include target date funds.

401(k) Plan Assets
Billions of dollars, end-of-period, selected periods

Note: Components may not add to the total because of rounding.
Sources: Investment Company Institute and Department of Labor

Individual Retirement Accounts

IRAs held $12.2 trillion in assets at the end of the fourth quarter of 2020. Forty-five percent of IRA assets, or $5.5 trillion, was invested in mutual funds. With $3.1 trillion, equity funds were the most common type of funds held in IRAs, followed by $1.1 trillion in hybrid funds.

IRA Market Assets
Billions of dollars, end-of-period, selected periods

e Data are estimated.
Note: Components may not add to the total because of rounding.

Sources: Investment Company Institute, Federal Reserve Board, American Council of Life Insurers, and Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Division

Other Developments

Retirement entitlements include both retirement assets and the unfunded liabilities of DB plans. Under a DB plan, employees accrue benefits to which they are legally entitled and which represent assets to US households and liabilities to plans. To the extent that pension plan assets are insufficient to cover accrued benefit entitlements, a DB pension plan has a claim on the plan sponsor.

As of December 31, 2020, total US retirement entitlements were $40.6 trillion, including $34.9 trillion of retirement assets and another $5.8 trillion of unfunded liabilities. Including both retirement assets and unfunded liabilities, retirement entitlements accounted for 39 percent of the financial assets of all US households at the end of December.

Unfunded liabilities are a larger issue for government DB plans than for private-sector DB plans. As of the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, unfunded liabilities were 44 percent of benefit entitlements for both state and local government and federal government DB plans, compared with only 4 percent of benefit entitlements for private-sector DB plans.

US Total Retirement Entitlements
Trillions of dollars, end-of-period, 2020:Q4

e Data are estimated.
Note: For definitions of categories, see Tables 1 and 2 in “"The US Retirement Market, Fourth Quarter 2020." Components may not add to the total because of rounding.

Sources: Investment Company Institute and Federal Reserve Board

The quarterly retirement data tables are available at “The US Retirement Market, Fourth Quarter 2020.”

Technical Notes

The Investment Company Institute’s total retirement market estimates reflect revisions to previously published estimates.

The latest estimates incorporate newly available data on 2018 flows and year-end 2018 assets for IRAs (from the Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income Division published tabulations) and for 401(k) plans, other private-sector DC plans, and private-sector DB plans (from the US Department of Labor Form 5500 microdata). The latest retirement market estimates also incorporate revisions to Federal Reserve Board estimates of state and local government DB plan assets and private-sector DB plan asset growth.

Incorporation of the newly available information resulted in downward revisions to previously published estimates of IRA, 401(k) plan, and private-sector DB plan assets beginning in the first quarter of 2018 and downward revisions to state and local government DB plan assets beginning in the first quarter of 2019.