Americans' 401(k) plans are healthier than ever before, carrying a record average balance of $74,900 at the end of the first quarter, according to a Fidelity Investments report released Wednesday. That average balance is up 12% from a year ago, largely mimicking the Dow's performance over the period.

And although the Dow was up only 13.5% year-over-year at the end of the first quarter -- far less than the whopping 42.3% gain it registered from 2009 to 2010 -- nearly one in 10 participants increased their contribution rate during the first quarter, the highest percentage to do so since Fidelity began tracking the statistic in 2006, the financial services firm noted.

In other positive news, the nation's high unemployment rate apparently hasn't forced a significantly greater number of people to dip into their 401(k) plans, according to the Investment Company Institute, which released a report earlier this week. The organization found only 1.7% of 401(k) participants took "hardship" withdrawals last year, up only slightly from the 1.6% seen in 2009.

But the percentage of people who took out loans against their 401(k)s in 2010 did climb, the Institute reports. According to its research, 18.2% of 401(k) plan participants had an outstanding loan balance at the end of last year, up from 16.5% at the close of 2009.

That pattern was also noticed during the market meltdown and recession of a few years past. And while many employers allow participants to do so, most savvy investors know borrowing against a 401 (k) should be a last resort, even in these cash-strapped times.

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Major Fraud Alert

The entire Federal Banking System under FirstGov has been "Consumed" and "Levied" by way of a Maryland State Circuit/District Court Ruled “Appropriation and Garnishment” of all Future Earnings prior to and after 2004 against Bank Of America by way of the F.D.I.C. Regulations Prohibiting failing Banks from Merging with other failing Banks between the Dates of 08/04/08 and 10/09/09.

Bank of America violated the 21st Century Act: Final Amendments to Regulation CC Section:

seeking reimbursement of Credit, Loan, and Finance Balances as a "Bank Entity" and not a "Nonbank Consumer" as specified on Pages 85 and 86.

The person they sued through a LLC. Debt Collection Company and Law Firm was the "World Fortune Owner" who "Counterclaimed" and won.

Now all Contracts of any Corporations (Including Employment) under the "Controlling Interest" of any Investment Bank Worldwide are "Null and Void", and are also under the stipulated Rules and Regulations of an "Closely-held S Corporation rendering all Employed under Legal Actions against “Domination”, and also means that "No Corporation can hold Shares" officially making every Stock Exchange on the Planet a "Ponzi Scheme" by default.

Businesses owned by the States (Public Corporations) are being sold Stock Shares by Corporations also under the Federal Banking System in this Worldwide "Ponzi Scheme". The World Fortune Company Merrick Inc. Sweden is dissolving Millions and Billions of Dollars from "All Levels of Government"in the U.S. of Financing based upon Years of "negligent inaction" involving this case.

The Federal Government has already been forced to discontinue supplying the Financing States use to pay their debts, Persons in Government Offices may want to begin to take their jobs more seriously, these are different times from 10 Years ago and you will not be accepted civil servants here just because you say you are here to do the right thing.

May 28 2011 at 11:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Not Again

I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for $98.37 and my girlfriend snagged an awesome $1299 MacBook Air for only $137.93, its being delivered tomorrow. I would be a fool to keep paying high retail prices at places like Walmart or BestBuy, when I even sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use two sites, both are good,

May 17 2011 at 10:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Would have been good to know the "median". Is it a bunch of accounts with half showing $140,000 and the other half showing $10,000? The accounts with $10,000 might have been $10,000 3 years ago and still are whereas the $140,000 account might have been $125,000 3 years ago.

May 13 2011 at 3:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

With unemployment rising and the value of a dollar sinking, liberals are becomong desperate. There is absolutely nothing indicating the Obama economy will turn around in the next 18 months!

May 13 2011 at 8:27 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

How much is the average for people over 55, who are close to retirement? And how many people have a 401(k) in the first place? For someone near retirement, this represents barely more than an emergency fund (and there will be emergencies, in every person's life). If you have to withdraw from a sum of $75,000 for your livelihood, you could "safely" take out about $300 to $350 per month, at most, if you want it to last two to three decades. The reality is that you need about 10x this much, obviously -- or, if your married, each of you needs about 5x as much.

May 13 2011 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Hopefully people only put money into their 401K's that is matched by their employer.. otherwise they should max out their Roth IRA's and have other money vehicles for retirement, such as bonds, etc. Diversify , cost average over time and retirement will be easier. A quick note for the doom and gloom club, yes, debt is high, taxes are low, wars are expensive, good paying jobs are scarce, but I believe it will eventually turn around, have faith my little grasshoppers.

May 13 2011 at 12:53 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to howdy's comment

Nice to hear from some of the "glass half full" people once in awhile, but get real...."Diversify" into what? Real Estate, Stocks & Bonds?..It's all turning to crap out there! Unfortunately, I belong to the "doom & gloom club" and recommend people buy lots of food and preserve their wealth by moving their assets out of the U.S. Dollar a.s.a.p!

May 13 2011 at 2:28 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to icemanbill23's comment

Ice: What's turned to crap. I have a very diversified portfolio with about 25-30% stocks and about 55-60%bonds (mainly short-term and TIPs) and the rest cash. I'm already a bit ahead of where I was before the Bush Recession, even after having withdrawn two years' worth of income (I'm retired). There have certainly been better times, but so far we have at least been steered away from a depression (a depression is, BTW, a result of deflation ... and much harder to control than inflation.)

May 13 2011 at 9:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

401's are the only reason the markets have been going up. Once the values are too high for stocks there will be another purge like the last 2 in the last 10 years. There isn't enough room in the market for all that money. The market has to flush the toilet every once in a while.

May 13 2011 at 12:32 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce5676's comment

Can you provide more details from your simulation? Was it a Monte Carlo? Or are you just making this stuff up? Do you always think in metaphor?

May 13 2011 at 9:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes it has been a rough ride. It would have broken my hart to have been a young person with out a lot of time in the market when this last melt down hit. I have been at this a while and have gone through several nasty times. The stock market is not a place for your bread and milk money or for money you will need soon. Get a little padding between you and the wolves before going there. There are always fear mongers that will tell you not to go there, and people that will be convinced that you you did something underhanded when after 30 years your nest egg grows into a three egg omlet. Short term thinking gets you nowhere. From time to time remind your self that you can lose money from the cost of inflation putting your savings in "safe" places. The worst saving stratagy though is to save nothing. Winning is just a matter of luck, ask any loosrer.

May 13 2011 at 12:09 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Why are figures released about how much money people are saving and taking out of thier 401K's, how many people are aware this money may not be there like Social Security. Sure on paper it is your money, but what if the company manageing that money goes by by? If you think someone is backing up this savings guess again.....

May 12 2011 at 11:49 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to msherer260's comment

That isn't how it works. The money is invested in the market and if the company managing your money goes out of business it has nothing to do with your money that is invested in the markets. The only sure thing going belly up is the Madoff ponzi scheme we call Social Security, that sucker is designed to fail!

May 13 2011 at 4:06 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Sonja Dunbar

I've read where young people would much rather have a pension than a 401K when polled. And, why shouldn't they? The money accumulates and when they retire they would get a nice monthly check instead of having to fool around with a 401K which you can't withdraw until a certain time, etc., etc. My husband has both and the pensions are very convenient.

May 12 2011 at 11:36 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sonja Dunbar's comment

You can purchase a pension with your 401k if you wish, it 's called an annuity.

May 13 2011 at 4:07 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply