Retirement assets plunged 25% in '08

Mar 18, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

By Mark Bruno

The nation's retirement assets shrank by nearly 25% last year and lost more than $2.4 trillion in market value, according to a new report from Chicago-based Spectrem Group.

Total assets held in retirement plans — both traditional defined-benefit pensions and defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k)s — fell to $7.86 trillion at the end of 2008. Just one year earlier, there was $10.3 trillion in these employer-sponsored retirement plans, according to Spectrem.

Declines of at least 40% in domestic and global equity markets last year prompted the $2.44 billion swoon, which caused traditional pension assets to fall from $5.5 trillion to $4.1 trillion last year, a 25% decline.

Meanwhile, defined contribution assets tumbled less, falling 21% to $3.8 trillion, as more workers now utilize both 401(k) and 403(b) plans, according to Spectrem.

Overall, defined contribution plans now account for 49% of the nation's total retirement assets, a record level, according to Spectrem.

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