Despite the historic equity market decline of 2008-2009, most 401(k) participants earned positive investment returns in the five-year period ended 2010, according to Vanguard. In fact, the average return was 3.76% a year, not including the impact of continued contributions.
In total, participants’ portfolios grew by an average of 20.27% over the period, due to these investment returns alone, Vanguard said. Participants approaching retirement had similar or better results. In total, 95% of participants earned a positive total return over the five years.