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401(k) savings hit record high

By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The average 401(k) balance hit a 10-year high at the end of last year as the recession waned and more Americans bulked up their retirement savings.

At the end of 2010, the average 401(k) balance had risen to $71,500 -- up 11.5% from $64,200 a year earlier, according to a report released Wednesday by Fidelity Investments.

These 401(k) plans give workers tax-deferred savings and often include a matching contribution from employers. As a result, they have become a primary vehicle for retirement savings as the pension has disappeared.

More than 51 million American workers contribute to these plans, putting aside an average of 8.2% of their salaries, the company said.

For a seventh straight quarter, more participants upped their contributions than decreased them. According to the report, 6.1% of workers increased their contributions from the previous quarter, while only 3% lowered their contribution amount.

Of the employers who use Fidelity to offer 401(k) plans to employees, only 8% reduced or eliminated matching contributions during the height of recession, the financial services provider said.

More than half of those firms have said that they have already -- or plan to -- reinstate those contributions. To top of page

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