Although older workers are experiencing large asset losses, they still realize the importance of being involved in a retirement plan - more so, it seems, than their younger counterparts. Fifty percent of employees ages 55 to 64 owned at least one retirement account in 2000, compared to 42% of workers overall, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis of Census data.

The participation rates are low, say experts, given that 64% of employees work for companies that sponsor a retirement plan.

Older workers, seeing retirement years quickly approach, appear to be more diligent savers than employees at large. In 2000, account balances of employees ages 55 to 64 averaged nearly $72,000, compared to a mean value of about $46,000 among all workers.

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