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IRAs Okay

Investors' IRA accounts may not be in as bad shape as some had predicted.

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.

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