Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Most IRAs of persons near or in retirement continued to grow in recent years, a study has found in what it called “an encouraging sign that many IRA owners are on the path to not outliving their retirement assets.”

The study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute looked at what happened to 7.5 million IRA accounts owned by persons age 60 or older in 2012. Of those, 81 percent were still open in 2015, and of those open, 68 percent had higher balances at the end of that period than at the beginning.

Apart from the smallest accounts, those with less than $1,000, the pattern was consistent across different account sizes. The median increase–the point where half are above and half are below–was 12 percent.

Even among account holders past age 70 1/2 when certain distributions are required, 49 percent of accounts grew over the three years.

“Those making annual withdrawals before age 71 had larger balance declines than those who recently reached the required minimum distribution age of 70 1/2. This is presumably because the latter group was more likely to be making a withdrawal primarily because they are required to do so, and therefore took the minimum required,” it said.

“Only when owners reached ages 85 or older did a significantly higher percentage of accounts fail to have a positive balance after three years, either due to depletion or account closure,” it added.