Saving for retirement is not easy: It often means sacrificing other wants, like a larger home, a nicer car, or the luxury vacation you've been giving up for years in order to squeeze more money into your IRA or 401(k) plan.

As such, it can be really disheartening to see your retirement savings plan's balance drop due to factors outside your control. But if that's the boat you're in right now, you're in good company.

Between the fourth quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2022, the average IRA balance fell from $135,600 to $104,000, according to Fidelity. The average 401(k) plan balance, meanwhile, dropped from $130,700 to $103,900.

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Clearly, it's not pleasant to see the value of your nest egg plunge. But it's also not necessarily something to panic over.

You need to give the market time to recover

Many investors are sitting on smaller nest eggs now than they were a year ago due to general stock market turbulence. And that volatility might not be over.

While we would all like to see a stock market rally in 2023, the reality is that things could also take a turn for the worse this year. We're still grappling with a world of uncertainty when it comes to factors like inflation and interest rate hikes. And so we can't write off the possibility of a near-term recession.

As such, your IRA or 401(k) might not recover its recent losses all that quickly. But if you're many years away from retirement, that's not something to lose sleep over.

Saving for retirement is something you're supposed to do throughout your career. If you're a good 20 years away from leaving the workforce, then frankly, it shouldn't matter all that much that your IRA or 401(k) is down 10%, 15%, or 20% from where it was at the end of 2021.

This isn't to say that seeing a lower balance isn't bothersome. Of course it is. But when you're so far away from retirement, there's plenty of opportunity for your portfolio to rebound. So don't sweat it if that doesn't happen in 2023.

Make sure your assets are age-appropriate

If you're years or decades away from retirement, a lower IRA or 401(k) balance might not be so worrisome. But if your portfolio has lost a lot of value over the past year and you're right on the cusp of retirement, that's more problematic.

That's why it's so important to pay attention to asset allocation. If you're within a few years of retirement, you should really have a large chunk of your portfolio invested outside of the stock market. You should also aim to have enough cash to cover one to two years' worth of bills. Sticking to these rules could mean that a stock market downturn doesn't upend up your retirement plans.

If you've already lost a lot of money in your IRA or 401(k) and you're planning to retire, say, this year, that's a move you want to rethink. But if you're not quite as close to retirement, start digging into your assets and work with a financial advisor to see if any changes are in order.

In time, stocks are apt to recover from the events of 2022. We just don't know when. By allocating your assets strategically, you can avoid having your plans compromised by turbulence in the market.