Total retirement assets fell to $17 trillion by the end of the third quarter, down 7.5% from the record high of $18.4 trillion that investors socked away in the prior quarter. The decline corresponded with a 13.9% drop in the S&P 500 during the third quarter.

Assets might have declined even further were it not for automatic contributions to 401(k)s, the Investment Company Institute said.

Retirement assets now comprise 36% of all U.S. household financial assets, the ICI said.

IRAs held $4.6 trillion at the end of the third quarter, an 8.5% decline from the end of the second quarter. Employer-sponsored retirement plan assets fell 7.5% to $4.3 trillion. Of this category, 401(k) plans held $2.9 trillion at the end of the third quarter, down 9.3% from $3.2 trillion at the end of June. Government pensions held $4.2 trillion, a 7.7% decline from the end of June. Private defined benefit plans held $2.3 trillion, and annuity reserves outside of retirement accounts totaled another $1.6 trillion.

The ICI also said that by the end of the third quarter, target-date funds held $343 billion in assets, a 10.2% decline from the second quarter. Ninety-one percent of those target-date fund assets are held in DC plans and IRAs.

Lee Barney writes for Money Management Executive.