Workers contributed a little more to their 401(k) plans last year, with the average 2011 contribution up to $5,750 from $5,680 a year earlier, with plan participants saving 8% of their salaries on average, according to Fidelity Investments.

At the end of last year’s fourth quarter, the average 401(k) balance was up almost 8% from the prior quarter, to $69,100. Fidelity Investments president of workplace investing, James M. MacDonald, called these results “encouraging.”

The study, based on Fidelity’s own 11.6 million accounts, also showed that 82% of plan participants received employer contributions in 2011, either via a company match or through profit sharing, up from 79% in 2010.

Approximately 25% of participants invested all their 401(k) assets in target date funds in 2011, and that number rose to nearly 50% for participants 35 and younger. Only 10% transferred money from one investment option to another within their 401(k) plans last year. When exchanges were made, the tendency was for assets to be shifted out of equities and into more conservative holdings such as fixed-income and stable value options, according to Fidelity.

Danielle Reed writes for Financial Planning.


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