Retirement Assets at a Glance

  • In addition to Social Security and private savings, a large number of Americans rely on investments in formal plans to prepare for retirement. A report by the Investment Company Institute (ICI) found that 69 percent of U.S. households (or 82 million households) reported that they had employer-sponsored retirement plans, IRAs or both in 2011. Retirement market assets rose by $100 billion to $17.9 trillion in 2011 after rising by $1.6 trillion in 2010.
  • Workplace plans play a major part in retirement savings, with 64 percent of Americans’ retirement assets held in private or public employer-sponsored plans in 2011, according to ICI.
  • There are two basic types of workplace pension plans: defined benefit and defined contribution plans. In a defined benefit plan, the income the employee receives in retirement is guaranteed, based on predetermined benefits formulas. In a defined contribution plan, a type of savings plan in which taxes on earnings are deferred until funds are withdrawn, the amount of retirement income depends on the contributions made and the earnings generated by the securities purchased.
  • The percentage of workers participating in defined benefit plans dropped from 35 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Defined contribution plan participation rose from 34 percent to 43 percent during the same period.
  • The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a federal corporation created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, protects the pensions of workers in private defined benefit plans. The PBGC operates two pension programs.
  • In 2011 the PBGC Single-Employer Program covered 152 newly terminated pension plans and made payments to 873,000 people.
  • The market value of individual retirement accounts rose from $4.7 trillion in 2007 to $4.9 trillion in 2011, according to the Federal Reserve.
  • Retirement assets in mutual funds rose from $2.1 trillion in 2002 to $4.7 trillion in 2011, according to the Investment Company Institute. In 2011 employer-sponsored defined contribution pension plans accounted for 53 percent of mutual fund retirement assets and IRA accounted for 47 percent.
  • Individual annuity sales totaled $240.3 billion in 2011, including $159.3 billion in variable annuities and $81.0 billion in fixed annuities, according to LIMRA International.