While Americans have remain committed to saving for retirement through their 401(k)s, a significant portion of households owning financial investments, 37%, have become more conservative in their saving, asset allocation and choice of retirement age, according to a survey of 3,000 households at the end of 2010 by the Investment Company Institute.

Three quarters of the households said they have continued to save the same or more in retirement and other accounts, compared with three years ago.

More than half have maintained the same investment strategy, but 37% have become more conservative, i.e. moving away from stocks to bond and money market assets.

In addition, retirement age remains the same for 70%, although 16% have delayed retirement. Only 14% have either already taken an early retirement or lowered their expected retirement age.

“It is understandable that the financial stresses of the last several years have prompted many households to adopt a more conservative approach to retirement planning by saving more, making more conservative investments or delaying retirement,” said Paul Schott Stevens, ICI president and CEO. “At the same time, our research shows that for the third year in a row, Americans have continued high confidence in the 401(k) system. Overwhelmingly, they value and want to preserve its key features.”

Eighty-eight percent of U.S. households said the tax advantages of DC accounts should not be eliminated, and 82% were opposed to any reduction in contribution limits.

Ninety percent want to be able to continue to make their own investment decisions in their DC plan, and 80% were opposed to the idea of replacing retirement accounts with a government bond. Ninety-six percent said it is important to have choice in and control over their investment options, and 86% said their plan offers a good lineup of investment options.

Sixty-four percent have favorable impressions of their DC plan, and 74% are confident that these retirement accounts can help them and other Americans reach their retirement savings goals.

In addition, data from defined contribution plan recordkeepers covering 24 million accounts as of September of 2010 shows that 18% of participants have outstanding loans, up from 16.5% at the end of 2009 and 15.3% at the end of 2008.

The data also showed than only 3.4% of participants stopped contributions in 2010, down from 5% in 2009. In addition, only 10% changed the asset allocation of their account balances.

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