U.S. retirement market assets fell 24% last year, to $7.86 trillion, according to Spectrem Group.

The Chicago company said in a report released Wednesday that assets held in defined contribution plans, which include 401(k) plans, fell 21% for the year, to $3.8 trillion. However, the popularity of these plans continued to increase overall, with defined contribution plans as a percentage of all retirement assets expanding to a record 49% in 2008.

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