Skip to main content

You are here


Volatile Markets Weigh on Average 401(k) in November

Industry Trends and Research

Concerns about the Omicron variant—and possible responses to it—capped off a volatile month for U.S. stock markets—and it made for a bumpy ride for the average 401(k) as well.

The Dow dropped 3.7% in November, while the S&P 500 shed 0.8% and the NASDAQ managed to eke out a 0.25% gain. On the other hand, the small-cap Russell 2000 plunged nearly 4.3% in November, its worst month since March 2020.

As for that average 401(k), that of older (age 55-64) workers with more than 20 years of tenure slipped 0.2% in November, while that of younger (25-34), less tenured (1-4 years) workers managed a 0.4% gain, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Remember that the older cohort’s larger balances are, generally speaking, more influenced by market moves than by contributions, while the latter has a greater impact on the smaller balances of the younger group.

Year to date, the average 401(k) of the older, more tenured cohort is (still) up 16.9% from where it began the year (it was up 17.2% at the end of October, while the younger group is now up 28.4% from the end of 2020).