There was nearly $18 trillion stashed in U.S. retirement assets as of Dec. 31, 2011, according to data compiled by the Investment Company Institute, a 4.9 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2011 and unchanged for the year.  Retirement savings accounted for 36 percent of all household financial assets in the United States at the end of 2011.

The bulk of the money sat in IRAs, $4.9 trillion; defined contribution plans, $4.5 trillion; private defined benefit plans, $2.4 trillion; government plans, $4.5 trillion; and annuity reserves, $1.6 trillion. All areas were either the same or above the third quarter 2011 numbers.

Out of the defined contribution plan dollars, $3.1 trillion was held in 401(k) plans, and mutual funds managed $2.5 trillion of the assets held in $401(k), 403(b), and other DC plans at the end of December.

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