Although the percentage of people who stopped making contributions to their 401(k) in the first half of 2009 edged up higher from levels throughout 2008, the figure was still a negligible 4.6%, the Investment Company Institute said. In 2008, 3.7% gave up on 401(k) contributions.

The ICI also found that the overwhelming majority of participants are not tapping their plans for withdrawals; in the first six months of 2009, only 1.8% of workers withdrew money from their 401(k) and only 0.9% took hardship withdrawals. The numbers were a bit higher in 2008, with 3.9% of people taking withdrawals and 1.3% taking hardship withdrawals.

As of the end of June 2009, 16.3% of defined contribution plan participants had a loan outstanding, in line with historical averages.

And few investors tinkered with their asset allocations in the first half of the year, with only 7.7% changing the composition of their existing balance and 9.3% readjusting the allocation for their contributions.

“As the markets began to regain their footing in the first half of 2009, plan participants persisted in saving for their retirement,” noted ICI President and CEO Paul Schott Stevens. “The 401(k) system, with dollar-cost-averaging and the discipline of ongoing contributions, serves investors as they build nest eggs for retirement. ICI will continue to work with regulators and Congress to improve the 401(k) system and find ways to make these plans available to more working Americans.”

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