Fewer Americans are blowing their retirement savings on cars, televisions and electronics when they quit their jobs. Most workers who choose to take a lump-sum distribution from their retirement plan roll it into an IRA or other savings vehicle or use that money to pay down debt or buy a house.
Only a small percentage of workers—7.5 percent—spent their lump sum retirement savings on mindless consumption when they left their job in 2012, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. That’s a major improvement from years past. In 1993, for instance, 22.7 percent of those who received a distribution blew the money on nonessentials. That figure dropped to 15.1 percent through 2003.
The number of workers who roll their accounts into tax-qualified savings accounts has increased sharply since 1993, according to EBRI, with 45.2 percent of those receiving a distribution through 2012 doing so.
From 2010 to 2012, the average account balance that was paid out in a lump-sum distribution was $15,934. The median amount was $10,000. Most lump-sum payouts were small, with 4.6 percent of recipients reporting a distribution of less than $500; 3.4 percent reporting less than $1,000; and 10.1 percent reporting between $1,000 and $2,500. Only 27.4 percent were more than $37,500. The bulk were between $2,500 and $37,499, EBRI found.
More than 56 percent of the distributions in the study took place after 2003 and half of those taking distributions were 40 years old or younger.