Investors' IRA accounts may not be in as bad shape as some had predicted, judging from new data by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). A new database system allows the group to aggregate account balance data for individual investors who own multiple accounts, giving them a much better picture of how investors are doing than average IRA account balance info. would. For example, the average IRA account balance in 2008 was $54,864, but the total IRA balance held by the average account owner was much greater: $69,498. The data is collected in a manner that prevents EBRI from identifying individuals, the group says.
Of course, a couple of very large accounts can skew the average. Median account size (the point at which half of all accounts are higher, and half are lower) is much lower: $15,756 per account and $20,046 per individual. And EBRI says that 56.4 percent of investors who own at least one IRA had less than $25,000 in them in 2008. EBRI's new database covers 14.1 million accounts and 11.1 million unique investors, with assets totaling $732.9 billion. The organization says it soon expects to link 401(k) plans with its data.