Americans continued to put money in their retirement savings accounts and not take it out, says one survey, but another shows the majority of unemployed workers are taking withdrawals.
Ninety-nine percent of the people with defined contribution saving plans continued to put money into their accounts, with only 1% halting contributions during the first quarter of 2012, the same rate as the first quarter of last year, says a new survey by the Investment Company Institute (ICI).
The percentage halting contributions was only slightly lower than in the first quarter of 2010 when it was 1.1%, according to the study, Defined Contribution Plan Participants' activities, First Quarter 2012.
Likewise, the withdrawals from defined contribution plans for the first quarter remained at 1.2% of participants, the same level as the previous year. Only 0.4% took hardship withdrawals during this time, the same as in the first quarter of 2011.
Loan activity edged down slightly with 17.9% of participants having outstanding loans compared to 18.4% at the end of 2011. This is still above the 15.3% who had outstanding loans at the end of 2008.
Defined contribution plan assets account for one quarter of the assets in the retirement market and make up one tenth of U.S. households' aggregate financial assets. The data in the study is based on record keeper data of more than 24 million defined contribution plan participant accounts.
However, the picture is not as bright for unemployed and underemployed workers, according to a report from Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, The Cracked Nest Egg: The Retirement Outlook for Unemployed American Workers.
For that group, the majority (61%) have a retirement savings account of some sort. But 63% of the unemployed who had 401(k) plans with their last full time employer have taken withdrawals from the accounts and 34% of the underemployed have done so.
In addition, many displaced workers (unemployed or underemployed) have tapped into their savings accounts (51%), used credit cards (31%), and borrowed from family and friends (24%).
"The Great Recession has led to a potentially devastating impact on the retirement outlook of American workers who have become unemployed or underemployed," says Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. "Many have raided retirement accounts to make ends meet -- and it will be difficult for them to overcome these savings setbacks once they regain employment."