The headlines throughout 2021 were dominated by concerning news for employees — COVID-19 variants, supply-chain challenges, inflation and labor shortages. The past two years have certainly been a period that most would choose to soon forget; however, a bright spot amidst all of the turmoil is the typical 401(k) participant’s account performance. 2021 marked the third consecutive year of gains for the typical 401(k) participant, with a 14.92% gain over the 12 months as measured by the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Composite Benchmark.
401(k) participants enjoyed a steady return throughout 2021, with the exception of the third quarter. The year started with a 3.69% gain over the first quarter of 2021, followed by a 5.73% gain in the 2nd quarter. The third quarter was the only month with a step backward when the Benchmark had a -0.61% return, in line with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ Composite Index. Those indexes also ended up in negative territory for the third quarter. As did the rest of the market, the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Composite Benchmark bounced back in the fourth quarter with a 5.47% return.
Over the past five years, it’s been a strong run for 401(k) participants. Four out of the past five years, the Mid Atlantic Trust Company 401(k) Composite Benchmark has posted solid annual returns greater than 14%, with only 2018 providing a 6% negative return. For the hypothetical 401(k) investor, that rate of return combined with an annual salary increase and a steady contribution rate means they would have more than doubled their account balance during those five years.*
Hypothetical Participant Balance