The Investment Company Institute's annual report on the U.S. retirement market revealed that retirement assets invested in mutual funds reached a record $3.1 trillion in 2004. The report also showed that, at the same time, all tax-advantaged retirement savings totaled a record $12.9 trillion.

IRAs and defined contribution plans, the two largest components of the U.S. retirement market, continued to outpace the growth of other types of retirement plans. The combined growth rate in 2004 was 13%, compared with 7% for other retirement plan assets. And, according to the report, they now account for more than half of all retirement assets, up from less than 40% in 1990.

Also stated in the report was that four out of 10 U.S. households own IRAs, and overall IRA assets climbed to $3.5 trillion at year-end 2004. Another $3.2 trillion is held in defined contribution plans, with 401(k) plan assets reaching an estimated $2.1 trillion.

"As impressive as these numbers are, policymakers are definitely on the right track in their efforts to encourage automatic enrollment of workers into employer-sponsored retirement plans and to offer them a broader array of long-term investment choices," said Paul Schott Stevens, ICI president, in a statement.

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