No Change in Retirement Assets from 2014 to 2015

Although retirement assets were $24 trillion at the end of both years, the makeup of the market changed.

Total U.S. retirement assets were $24 trillion as of December 31, 2015, up 3% from the end of September and unchanged for the year, according to data from the Investment Company Institute (ICI).

Although retirement assets were also $24 trillion as of December 31, 2014, the makeup of those assets changed: Annuity reserves and individual retirement account (IRA) assets held steady at $1.9 trillion and $7.3 trillion, respectively, but government defined benefit (DB) plan assets fell from $5.2 trillion to $5.1 trillion, private sector DB plan assets fell from $3 trillion to $2.9 trillion, and defined contribution (DC) plan assets increased from $6.6 trillion to $6.7 trillion.

Retirement assets accounted for 34% of all household financial assets in the United States at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, ICI notes.

Assets in IRAs totaled $7.3 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, an increase of 2.7% from the end of the third quarter. DC plan assets rose 3.4% in the fourth quarter to $6.7 trillion. Government DB plans—including federal, state, and local government plans—held $5.1 trillion in assets as of the end of December, a 3.4% increase from the end of September. Private-sector DB plans held $2.9 trillion in assets at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, and annuity reserves outside of retirement accounts accounted for another $1.9 trillion.

Americans held $6.7 trillion in all employer-based DC retirement plans on December 31, 2015, of which $4.7 trillion was held in 401(k) plans. In addition to 401(k) plans, at the end of the fourth quarter, $514 billion was held in other private-sector DC plans, $879 billion in 403(b) plans, $263 billion in 457 plans, and $430 billion in the Federal Employees Retirement System’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Mutual funds managed $3.6 trillion, or 54%, of assets held in DC plans at the end of December.

Forty-eight percent of IRA assets, or $3.5 trillion, was invested in mutual funds.

As of December 31, 2015, target-date mutual fund assets totaled $763 billion, an increase of 5.2% in the fourth quarter. Retirement accounts held the bulk of target-date mutual fund assets: 88% of target-date mutual fund assets were held through DC plans (67% of the total) and IRAs (21%).

The quarterly retirement data tables are available at “The U.S. Retirement Market, Fourth Quarter 2015.”