Fidelity Investments yesterday reported its average 401(k) balance rose to $74,600 at the end of the first quarter, up 8% from the end of the fourth quarter 2011 and a 62% increase since the end of the first quarter 2009.

According to the firm, strong stock market performance in the first quarter accounted for some 80% of the account balance growth with the other 20% attributed to both participant and employer contributions.

In Q1, Fidelity also found that the number of participants taking advantage of annual increase programs (i.e. auto escalation) increased nearly nine-fold over the past five years and in 2011, 20% more participants attended workplace workshops and 45% more used online webinars compared to 2010.

“Participants have become much more engaged in their financial futures, as demonstrated by increased savings levels quarter over quarter” stated James M. MacDonald, president, Workplace Investing, Fidelity Investments.

“We also see clear evidence that employers can have a meaningful impact on employee retirement readiness by fostering a culture of savings at the workplace.”

Fidelity’s 401(k) savings analysis is based on the industry’s largest participant base of 11.8 million accounts2.