This Was the Average 401(k) Match in 2023

If you work for a larger company, there’s a pretty good chance that one of your workplace benefits will include access to a 401(k) plan. And if you’re lucky, that plan will include some type of employer match.

Now 401(k) matches can work in different ways. In some cases, you’ll be offered a dollar-for-dollar match of up to a certain amount. So your employer, for example, might say that it’ll put up to $3,000 into your 401(k) plan, matching each dollar you contribute yourself. If you contribute $2,200, you’ll get that exact sum from your employer as well.

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Other employers calculate 401(k) matches as a percentage of salary. So your company, for example, might say that it’ll match 100% of your contributions of up to 5% of your salary. So if you make $60,000 a year, you’re eligible for up to $3,000. If you make $90,000 a year, you’re eligible for up to $4,500.

In 2023, 81% of workers with 401(k)s at Fidelity received some type of employer matching contribution. And the average amount might surprise you — in a good way.

Employers weren’t stingy

In 2023, the average 401(k) match was $4,600. That’s not a negligible sum, and it’s also really valuable given that employer matching dollars can be invested for added growth. If your 401(k) typically delivers a yearly return of 8%, which is a notch below the stock market’s average, a $4,600 match on your employer’s part this year could be worth $46,000 in 30 years. In 40 years, it could be worth almost $100,000.

As such, it’s important to try to claim your full employer match if that option exists in your 401(k). That way, you won’t miss out on free money — money you can then invest.

Should you save in your 401(k) plan beyond your employer match?

While it definitely pays to snag your full employer 401(k) match, whether it makes sense to fund your workplace plan beyond that point is questionable. Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans are notorious for charging high administrative fees. And because your investment choices tend to be more limited with a 401(k), you might lose money to investment-specific fees as well.

For example, you’ll often find mutual funds and target funds in a 401(k). But the fees you’re charged to put money into them, known as expense ratios, ca be significant.

Plus, with a 401(k), you don’t get as much control over your investment portfolio as you do with an IRA. If you’re someone who’s willing to spend the time researching different stocks, then you may find that an IRA is a better bet for you. That’s because IRAs allow you to buy stocks individually, whereas 401(k)s tend to limit you to funds whose specific holdings you’re not selecting yourself.

All told, it’s always smart to do what you can to take home your full 401(k) match. But it also doesn’t hurt to spread your savings across multiple retirement plans so you get more investment options and can potentially lower your fees.

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