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Schwab Report: Self-Directed 401(k) Balances Increase 22% Year-Over-Year

According to Charles Schwab’s SDBA Indicators Report, an industry-leading benchmark on retirement plan participant investment activity within self-directed brokerage accounts (SDBAs), the average account balance across all participant accounts finished Q2 2021 at $348,183, a nearly 22% increase year-over-year and a 4.3% increase from Q1 2021.

SDBAs are brokerage accounts within retirement plans, including 401(k)s and other types of retirement plans, that participants can use to invest retirement savings in individual stocks and bonds, as well as exchange-traded funds, mutual funds and other securities that are not part of their retirement plan's core investment offerings.

The second quarter SDBA Indicators Report also showed that trading volumes were in line with one year ago at an average of 14 trades per account, as participants encountered familiar COVID volatility with the rise of the Delta variant. Despite some fears, participants saw account growth year-over-year as stocks continued to climb off the March 2020 low and consumer confidence surged back to pre-pandemic levels.

The majority of participant assets were held in equities (37%). Mutual funds were the second largest holding at (30%), followed by ETFs (20%), cash (12%), and fixed income (1%).

Allocation Trends

The data also reveals specific asset class and sector holdings within each investment category:

  • Mutual funds: Large-cap funds had the largest allocation at approximately 34% of all mutual fund allocations, followed by taxable bond (19%) and international (16%) funds.
  • Equities: The largest equity sector holding was Information Technology at 29%. Apple was the top overall equity holding, comprising 10.26% of the equity allocation of portfolios. The other equity holdings in the top five include Tesla (6.28%), Amazon (5.03%), Microsoft (2.72%) and NVIDIA (1.84%).
  • ETFs: Among ETFs, investors allocated the most dollars to U.S. equity (50%), followed by sector ETFs (15%), international equity (13%) and U.S. fixed income (13%).

Other Report Highlights

  • Advised accounts held higher average account balances compared to non-advised accounts - $550,127 vs. $302,330.
  • Gen X had the most advised accounts at 48%, followed by Baby Boomers (36%) and Millennials (13%).
  • Gen X made up approximately 45% of SDBA participants, followed by Baby Boomers (32%) and Millennials (18%).
  • Baby Boomers had the highest SDBA balances at an average of $532,338, followed by Gen X at $306,489 and Millennials at $103,777. All balances were up from Q1 2021.
  • On average, participants held 12.3 positions in their SDBAs at the end of Q2 2021, up slightly from 10.5 last year and consistent with Q1 2021.

About the SDBA Indicators Report

The SDBA Indicators Report includes data collected from approximately 174,000 retirement plan participants who currently have balances between $5,000 and $10 million in their Schwab Personal Choice Retirement Account®. Data is extracted quarterly on all accounts that are open as of quarter-end and meet the balance criteria.

The SDBA Indicators Report tracks a wide variety of investment activity and profile information on participants with a Schwab Personal Choice Retirement Account (PCRA), ranging from asset allocation trends and asset flow in various equity, exchange-traded fund and mutual fund categories, to age trends and trading activity. The SDBA Indicators Report provides insight into PCRA users’ perceptions of the markets and the investment decisions they make.

Data contained in this quarterly report is from the second quarter of 2021, and can be found here, along with prior reports.

About Charles Schwab

At Charles Schwab we believe in the power of investing to help individuals create a better tomorrow. We have a history of challenging the status quo in our industry, innovating in ways that benefit investors and the advisors and employers who serve them, and championing our clients’ goals with passion and integrity.

More information is available at Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Brokerage Products: Not FDIC‐Insured • No Bank Guarantee • May Lose Value

The securities shown are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation to transact in any security.

Through its operating subsidiaries, The Charles Schwab Corporation (NYSE: SCHW) provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC,, and affiliates offer a complete range of investment services and products including an extensive selection of mutual funds; financial planning and investment advice; retirement plan and equity compensation plan services; compliance and trade monitoring solutions; referrals to independent fee-based investment advisors; and custodial, operational and trading support for independent, fee-based investment advisors through Schwab Advisor Services. Its banking subsidiary, Charles Schwab Bank (member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender), provides banking and lending services and products. More information is available at and

This report is for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation, or a recommendation that any particular investor should purchase or sell any particular security.

Schwab Personal Choice Retirement Account® (PCRA) is offered through Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC), the registered broker/dealer, which also provides other brokerage and custody services to its customers.

All corporate names are for illustrative purposes only and are not a recommendation, offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security.



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