In the 13-year history of PLANSPONSOR’s annual Recordkeeping Survey, there has only been one year of reported "downturn" in terms of total assets in defined contribution plans—2008—when the stock market fell 34% from a year-end 2007 close of 13,265 to just 8,776 a year later. Defined contribution assets fell in similar fashion—down $750 billion in 2008, or 20% off 2007 levels.
2010, on the other hand, was a record year for the defined contribution industry, with total assets of more than $4 trillion—a level that finally surpasses the previous high of $3.72 trillion in 2007, and betters 2009 by 14%. Total DC plans and total DC participants also hit new highs in 2010—albeit at more modest growth rates—with more than 677,000 plans (up 0.4%) and more than 82 million participants (up 1.9%).
The industry has certainly come a long way in a relatively short time. In 1998—the first year we began tracking total industry statistics—total DC assets were a "mere" $1.67 trillion. That translates to a 147% or $2.46 trillion increase in assets in 12 years.
Of course, "the industry" is not the only—nor even the most important—beneficiary of increased asset levels: A rough calculation of total DC assets per participant in 2010 comes to $50,000—a 32% increase over the $37,800 average in 2008.