Total retirement assets, including money in pension plans in the public and private sectors and holdings in IRAs, hit $21.5 trillion in 2014, according to research firm Spectrem Group.
That total is up from $19.6 trillion at the end of 2013, a 9.6 percent increase, according to Chicago-based Spectrum, which tracks wealthy Americans’ investing habits for large money managers.
Just how much money is that? U.S. gross domestic product is about $17 trillion, according to the World Bank. China’s is about $9 trillion.
Spectrem's figures closely mirror those of Towers Watson, which last month estimated that assets in U.S. institutional retirement funds set a new record in 2014 — $22.1 trillion — after gaining 9 percent year-over-year.
According to Spectrem, about $8.5 trillion of retirement savings is in private-sector employer-sponsored plans. Corporate defined-contribution plans alone hold nearly $5.3 trillion, twice as much as corporate defined-benefit plans.
Plans sponsored by aerospace and oil companies make the ranking, as do those in the financial sector.
DC plans have grown at an average rate of 10.2 percent over the past five years. In 2009, assets in corporate DC plans — which the study distinguishes from union-sponsored DC plans — were about $3.2 trillion.
Most of that growth is accounted for by 401(k) plans, which held more than $4 trillion by the end of 2014, nearly double the value at the end of 2009.
Assets in 401(k) plans have grown by about 12 percent annually over the past five years. Some of that is attributable to the stock-market recovery since the financial crisis.
But steady new plan adoption has also propelled the overall asset value of 401(k) plans. New-plan formation has been 3 percent per year since 2009. Most of the new plans have been established at firms with fewer than 500 employees, according to Spectrem.
That means there are now 642,400 401(k) plans in the country, and about 52.7 million participants enrolled in them.
IRAs held $7.7 trillion at the end of 2014, mostly in mutual funds and self-directed brokerage accounts, up from $4.5 trillion in 2009.
IRA assets have grown 11.4 percent annually over the past five years. Spectrem is assuming IRAs will be the fastest-growing among retirement savings platforms, as baby boomers retire and roll over savings from DC plans.
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