Most American workers who invest through a 401(k) plan are staying the course through turbulent markets, according to research by the Investment Company Institute.

In a survey of records on 22.5 million accounts participating in 401(k) retirement plans, ICI, Washington, found that just 3% of participants stopped contributing to their retirement plan during the first 10 months of 2008, despite the decline in account balances caused by the 40% drop in U.S. stock markets.

Among other findings:

–Only 3.7% percent of participants withdrew any funds from their accounts in the first 10 months of the year, including 1.2% taking hardship withdrawals;

–15% had loans outstanding, in line with the 13% to 17% reported since 1996 in annual studies conducted by ICI and the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

In a separate opinion survey of 3,000 households, ICI found 72% of all households reject the notion of reducing tax advantages for defined contribution retirement plans and individual retirement accounts. Even among households that do not own such accounts, 62% oppose reducing these tax incentives.