Saving for retirement is essential. Without savings, you might struggle to cover your living expenses once your career comes to an end and you're limited to a monthly benefit from Social Security.

But sometimes, even the most diligent of retirement savers can experience a temporary setback. And a lot of people are in that boat this year.

The stock market has been rocky since the start of 2022. And not surprisingly, Fidelity reports that IRA balances are down across the board.

A person with a serious expression at a laptop.

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In the second quarter of 2022, the average IRA balance sat at $110,800. That average balance then dropped to $101,900 for the third quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, the average IRA balance is down almost 25% from the third quarter of 2021. At that point, the average balance sat at $135,700.

If your IRA balance has taken a serious hit over the past year, you can take some comfort in the fact that you're in good company. Also, you can rest assured that the decrease you're seeing isn't likely a result of your poor investment decisions, but rather, a by-product of ongoing market turbulence.

At the same time, if your IRA balance is down, now's a good time to assess your investments -- and make sure you're happy with the way your assets are allocated.

No reason to panic

If you're seeing major losses in your IRA but are years away from retirement, then first things first: You shouldn't lose too much sleep over that. While it can definitely be disheartening to see a much lower number on screen than what you saw a year ago, you should also remind yourself that in a year from now, your IRA balance may be back up. And if you're not leaving the workforce for decades, there's plenty of time to recover from the events of the past year.

Of course, the same "don't panic" sentiment doesn't work as well for near-retirees with serious losses on their hands. It's ideal to have a smaller percentage of your savings in stocks as retirement nears to avoid major losses that upend your plans. If your IRA is way down and you were initially hoping to retire in 2023, you may, unfortunately, want to rethink that.

Either way, if your IRA has lost value, it's a good idea to make sure you're happy with your investment mix. It may be that you're holding certain assets that have consistently underperformed outside the general downward spiral the stock market has landed in this year. Those may be assets worth cutting your losses on.

It's also wise to make sure your IRA is invested in an age-appropriate manner. If you're getting closer to retirement, that could mean shifting away from stocks once the market recovers to lower your risk profile.

If you're younger and don't have a lot of your assets in stocks, you may want to do the opposite -- add more stocks to fuel your IRA's growth. In fact, now's a particularly good time to buy stocks for your IRA due to the market being down.

It's not surprising to see Fidelity report a decline in IRA values. But rather than let that throw you for a loop, recognize that stock market dips are common, and take steps to assemble an investment mix that's likely to lead to long-term success.