03/14/2012 04:25 pm ET Updated May 15, 2012

401(k) Or IRA? Workers Who Contribute To Both Save More

By Heather Struck

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - Americans often view saving for retirement as a choice between contributing to a workplace 401(k) plan or funding an IRA, even though the majority of people are allowed to contribute to both at the same time.

A new report by Fidelity Investments indicates that as companies cut down on pension plans, more workers are contributing to both Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and 401(k) plans. Those who contribute to both end up saving much more overall, the study showed. In addition, workers are more likely to save for retirement if they seek financial advice.

On average, Americans have saved either $5,750 annually in a workplace 401(k) account, or $4,150 in an IRA account, far below the maximum limits allowed, according to Fidelity's research. Workers under age 50 could contribute up to $16,500 to a 401(k) plan in 2011. The maximum IRA contribution for the same age group in the 2011 tax year is $5,000.

Employees who only have 401(k) accounts have saved an average total of $69,100. But people with combined accounts stashed away an average of $212,600 for retirement, according to Fidelity's study.

Saving for retirement in a tough economy isn't always a priority, though. While most U.S. households are eligible to
make contributions to IRAs, only 14 percent of them did so in 2010, according to data from the Investment Company Institute. And 401(k)savings plans aren't available at every employer. In 2012, only 74 percent of employed workers were offered any kind of retirement plan at work, down from 77 percent in 2007, according to the 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey, published by Employee Benefits Research Institute this week.

In addition, workers are taking a more active role in their savings, and many are looking to financial professionals for

Between 2008 and 2011, there was a sharp jump in the number of Americans seeking guidance with their retirement saving plans, Fidelity said. One-on-one retirement planning sessions grew 48 percent in the three-year period. Attendance Fidelity's retirement seminars has increased 68 percent, the Boston-based company said.

"More investors are seeking guidance, and that is positively impacting the overall savings rate," said Beth McHugh, vice president of market insight for Fidelity.

The largest provider of IRA accounts in the United States, Fidelity had $725 billion in IRA assets under administration in the second quarter of 2011.