Record rebound continues for 401(k) accounts

Basket of golden eggs

Record-high stock prices sent our 401(k) retirement plan balances soaring to new highs in 2013.

The average 401(k) balance increased from $84,300 in September to $89,300 by the end of the year, according to Fidelity Investments, a Boston-based mutual fund company.

Overall, the average 401(k) balance increased by a whopping 15.5% over the course of the year.

Market gains accounted for 78% of that growth. The remaining 22% came from employee and employer contributions.

It's well worth noting that the average 401(k) balance is nearly double what it was at the nadir of the financial market downturn in March 2009, when the average balance was $46,200.

Those averages, pulled from the 12 million accounts Fidelity manages, are an excellent way to judge the progress of your 401(k) retirement plan.

They show why it's so important to keep investing, even when the markets are down, so that you can profit from rallies like we saw in 2013.

The S&P 500 was up 29.6%, the largest annual gain in 16 years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 26.5%, its biggest increase in 18 years.

Of course, the typical 401(k) account didn't rise quite that much because most retirement plans are not invested solely in domestic stocks.

A savvy diversified portfolio includes bonds and other assets that might not grow as quickly, but aren't nearly as volatile as stocks.

If you're not taking full advantage of your employer's retirement plan, our 7 rules for a successful 401(k) can help you make all of the right decisions.

Some workers have saved more than $1 million in these accounts. Click here to discover their simple secrets to saving a fortune.

Mitch Strohm on Google Plus.