How Much Did 401(k)s Lose to Brexit?

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton recently claimed that 401(k)s lost $100 billion in the immediate wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union – but how did they end the month?

Clinton’s claim was fact-checked by Politifact, who had the good sense to check in with the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) Research Director Jack VanDerhei – who said the approach taken to come up with that figure was reasonable – and came up with his own estimate of an estimated $104 billion, though this – and Clinton’s – estimate likely didn’t consider the run-up in value ahead of the anticipated vote.

But, after a few down days, U.S. markets have rebounded significantly – so, where do 401(k) balances stand now?

End Points

According to estimates by the nonpartisan EBRI, the average account balances among consistent 401(k) participants ended June higher than they began the month.

Younger and less tenured workers enjoyed the strongest uptick – with the average 401(k) balance among those aged 25-34 and with 1-4 years of tenure gaining 2.0% during the month. The average balance of older workers, notably those with 20-29 years of tenure, aged 55-64, also gained ground, but just 1.1%, according to the report.

Now, in fairness, we’re talking about changes in account balance, not just investment gains/losses. The accounts of younger, less tenured workers are more likely to be influenced by contribution flows, while the latter category tends to be more sensitive to market swings due to those workers’ larger account balances.

‘Second’ Helpings

Still, the second quarter has seen consistent gains for consistent 401(k) participants. In May the average 401(k) balance among those aged 25-34 and with 1-4 years of tenure gaining 2.8% during the month, while the average balance of older workers, notably those with 20-29 years of tenure, aged 55-64, gained 1.3%, according to EBRI’s analysis of data from the EBRI/ICI database, includes demographic, contribution, asset allocation and loan and withdrawal activity information for millions of participants.

In April the average balance of older workers, notably those with 20-29 years of tenure, aged 55-64, gained 0.6%, while the average account balance of younger, less tenured (age 25-34, with 1-4 years of tenure) workers gained 1.9%., on top of March’s 6.9% rise.

Each month EBRI produces estimates of the cumulative changes in average account balances – both as a result of contributions and investment returns – for several combinations of participant age and tenure. You can access reports of both cumulative and monthly average account changes here.

Add Your Comments

2 Comments

  1. steff chalk
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this data, analysis and source. Well done and a fantastic resource for advisors who want to be in-the-know with the facts!

  2. url url'>Jim Robsion
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    a contemporary reminder that short-term thinking and biases tend to be misleading and/or misguided; especially when in regards to measuring the success of retirement plans.

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