The account balance of the average Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance retirement plan participant fell about 25% between 2007 and 2008.

That fall was significant, but, thanks in part to investments in cash, bonds and other relatively stable options, it was lower than the 34% decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the 38.5% decline in the S&P 500 Index, according to MassMutual, Springfield, Mass.

Automatic enrollment programs caused participation rates to rise despite the market turmoil, but the average rate of saving dropped by 1.6 percentage points, MassMutual says.

Loan activity has been stable and was down 19% in October 2008 when compared with October 2007, the company says.