Defined Benefit pension plans

2nd September 2021 0 By indiafreenotes

A defined-benefit plan is an employer-sponsored retirement plan where employee benefits are computed using a formula that considers several factors, such as length of employment and salary history.1 The company is responsible for managing the plan’s investments and risk and will usually hire an outside investment manager to do this. Typically, an employee cannot just withdraw funds as with a 401(k) plan. Rather they become eligible to take their benefit as a lifetime annuity or in some cases as a lumpsum at an age defined by the plan’s rules.

Planning for retirement is a crucial aspect of everybody’s lives. Considering the rising inflation level and limited social security initiatives for senior citizens, it is vital that you start planning your retirement early.

A defined benefit (DB) pension plan is a type of pension plan in which an employer/sponsor promises a specified pension payment, lump-sum or combination thereof on retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee’s earnings history, tenure of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns. Traditionally, many governmental and public entities, as well as a large number of corporations, provide defined benefit plans, sometimes as a means of compensating workers in lieu of increased pay.

Pension or retirement plans offer the dual benefit of investment and insurance cover. By investing a certain amount regularly towards your pension plan, you will accumulate a considerable sum in a phase-by-phase manner. This will ensure a steady flow of funds once you retire.

Public Provident Fund is one of the most popular retirement planning schemes in India. When you start contributing to your retirement early, the funds build a secure golden year money-wise over the years. A well-chosen retirement plan can help you rise above inflation, thanks to the power of compounding.

A defined benefit plan is ‘defined‘ in the sense that the benefit formula is defined and known in advance. Conversely, for a “defined contribution retirement saving plan”, the formula for computing the employer’s and employee’s contributions is defined and known in advance, but the benefit to be paid out is not known in advance.

In the United States, 26 U.S.C. § 414(j) specifies a defined benefit plan to be any pension plan that is not a defined contribution plan, where a defined contribution plan is any plan with individual accounts. A traditional pension plan that defines a benefit for an employee upon that employee’s retirement is a defined benefit plan.

The most common type of formula used is based on the employee’s terminal earnings (final salary). Under this formula, benefits are based on a percentage of average earnings during a specified number of years at the end of a worker’s career.

In the private sector, defined benefit plans are often funded exclusively by employer contributions. In the public sector, defined benefit plans usually require employee contributions.

Over time, these plans may face deficits or surpluses between the money currently in the plans and the total amount of their pension obligations. Contributions may be made by the employee, the employer, or both. In many defined benefit plans, the employer bears the investment risk and can benefit from surpluses.

Benefit plan

Traditionally, retirement plans have been administered by institutions which exist specifically for that purpose, by large businesses, or, for government workers, by the government itself. A traditional form of a defined benefit plan is the final salary plan, under which the pension paid is equal to the number of years worked, multiplied by the member’s salary at retirement, multiplied by a factor known as the accrual rate. The final accrued amount is available as a monthly pension or a lump sum.

The benefit in a defined benefit pension plan is determined by a formula that can incorporate the employee’s pay, years of employment, age at retirement, and other factors. A simple example is a dollars times service plan design that provides a certain amount per month based on the time an employee works for a company. For example, a plan offering $100 a month per year of service would provide $3,000 per month to a retiree with 30 years of service. While this type of plan is popular among unionized workers, final average pay (FAP) remains the most common type of defined-benefit plan offered in the United States. In FAP plans, the average salary over the final years of an employee’s career determines the benefit amount.

Frequently, as in Canadian government employees’ pensions, the average salary uses current dollars. This results in inflation in the averaging years decreasing the cost and purchasing power of the pension. This can be avoided by converting salaries to dollars of the first year of retirement and then averaging. If that is done, then inflation has no direct effect on the purchasing power and cost of the pension at the outset.

In the United Kingdom, benefits are typically indexed for inflation (specifically the Consumer Price Index and previously the Retail Prices Index) as required by law for registered pension plans. Inflation during an employee’s retirement affects the purchasing power of the pension; the higher the inflation rate, the lower the purchasing power of a fixed annual pension. This effect can be mitigated by providing annual increases to the pension at the rate of inflation (usually capped, for instance at 5% in any given year). This method is advantageous for the employee, because it stabilizes the purchasing power of pensions to some extent.

If the pension plan allows for early retirement, payments are often reduced to recognize that the retirees will receive the payouts for longer periods of time. In the US, (under the ERISA rules), any reduction factor less than or equal to the actuarial early retirement reduction factor is acceptable.

Many DB plans include early retirement provisions to encourage employees to retire early, before the attainment of normal retirement age (usually age 65). Some of those provisions come in the form of additional temporary or supplemental benefits, which are payable to a certain age, usually before attaining normal retirement age.

Annuity vs. Lump-Sum Payments

Payment options commonly include a single-life annuity, which provides a fixed monthly benefit until death; a qualified joint and survivor annuity, which offers a fixed monthly benefit until death and allows the surviving spouse to continue receiving benefits thereafter; or a lump-sum payment, which pays the entire value of the plan in a single payment.

Working an additional year increases the employee’s benefits, as it increases the years of service used in the benefit formula. This extra year may also increase the final salary the employer uses to calculate the benefit. In addition, there may be a stipulation that says working past the plan’s normal retirement age automatically increases an employee’s benefits.