Archive

Posts Tagged ‘defined benefit’

New developments affecting defined benefit pension plans

August 14th, 2015 No comments

Several key developments—in the form of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) proposed regulations, and a new law—have occurred recently for employers that sponsor defined benefit pension plans. This Client Action Bulletin provides an overview of these items, which affect: the mortality tables used for a variety of pension plan requirements; the elimination of lump-sum payouts to current annuitants as part of a “de-risking” strategy; the reporting of financial and actuarial information by “underfunded” plans; and transfers of excess plan assets to retiree health and group-term life accounts.

What changes will you make to help increase your employees’ retirement confidence?

July 15th, 2015 No comments

Regli-JinnieThe 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey, published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, continues to highlight the rise of retirement confidence in American workers. An increase in retirement plan participation (14% in 2013 to 28% in 2015 for those with a retirement plan) seems to closely correlate with the rise in the percentage of workers who are confident about having enough money in retirement (13% in 2013 to 22% in 2015).

The survey findings seem to indicate that more American workers are taking retirement planning into account and they are feeling very confident about having enough money in retirement, both of which may be related to the increase in availability and accessibility of online retirement calculators and a growing confidence in the overall economy. Yet at the same time, the percentage of American workers who report having saved for retirement has stayed fairly consistent at 63%, indicating that more may need to be done in order to assist workers in saving. Here are a few standout figures from the 2015 survey results:

• 80% of current workers believe personal savings will play a large role in their retirement incomes
• 71% of employed workers report their employers offer an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan
• 12% of those without a retirement plan reported feeling very confident
• 50% of those asked what they would do if they were automatically enrolled at 3% said they would raise their contribution rate; only 2% said they would stop it altogether

It seems that, as the economy strengthens, many American workers are comfortable making retirement savings a priority, so what better time to encourage them to make the most of it?

As plan sponsors, what can be done to help keep retirement confidence on the rise for years to come? Here are some ideas.

• If you don’t offer an employer-sponsored plan, consider offering one. Behavioral finance has found that inertia makes humans their own worst enemies when it comes to retirement savings, making it all that more difficult for the 29% of employed workers without an employer-sponsored retirement plan to save for their retirement. Open the door for them to begin saving today!
• If you already offer an employer-sponsored plan, think about offering additional employer-sponsored plans. Employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), nonqualified retirement plans, cash balance plans—there are a variety of options available that could be used to supplement your current 401(k) plan.
• Or continue to drive participation by considering plan design changes that will promote additional plan participation. Speak with your consultant about the best options for your company.
• Educate participants. Make sure your employees have sufficient information and tools to assist in their retirement planning.

What changes will you make to help your employees’ retirement confidence increase?

The Dutch General Pension Fund, a new pension vehicle

April 30th, 2015 No comments

Wouda-MartinThe total of assets of Dutch pension funds is over 150% of gross national product and still growing. The number of Dutch pension funds, however, keeps falling: from 800 to less than 400 in the past 10 years.

The attention of the press on pension issues has increased from close to zero to daily reports. At the same time, the political and public debate has intensified—especially when it became clear that some pension funds had to cut benefits because the insufficient funding could not be solved over time. Until the day that the actual cuts were announced, this risk was quite underexposed. One of the last items that gets the attention of the press, politicians, and the public is the obligation to account for the cost per participant in the annual reporting.

The reaction of the supervisor is to aim for more control, more regulations, and more compliance. The Dutch Central Bank (DNB) has recently sent out a note to all small pension funds, asking them to consider their reasons for future existence and to contemplate their sustainability.

Regulations are relatively tight compared to other countries. For example, the discount rate to be used to value liabilities is prescribed and published monthly by the Dutch Central Bank. Also there are standard formulas to calculate the solvency buffer. This is in contrast to one of its neighboring countries: Belgian pension funds choose the discount rate and solvency buffer themselves and need to submit it to the supervisor (well documented).

New pension fund board members are heavily tested on capacities and integrity by the supervisor. Some of the candidates that have been rejected have shared their stories with the press, but in most cases the DNB silently advises the candidates to step down before actually refusing to let them join a board of trustees.

Many of the smaller pension funds have transferred all accrued benefits to an insurer in the past 10 years. The disadvantage of this option is clear. The security one gets from an insurer comes with a price. The pension funds are used to taking some investment risk: the indexation depends on how the investment returns turn out. In case of really poor investment returns, there is in some cases the possibility of extra contributions by the sponsor. Pension funds also have the emergency brake of cutting benefits. The insurers, on the other hand, would be bankrupt, so their pricing of annuities is more prudent. The insurers do have the advantage of cost efficiency, which is due to the larger scales of their operations. An alternative for the smaller pension funds is to join a larger sector-wide pension fund. Joining a sector fund means joining the scale and risk pooling of the pension plan in the sector and can be attractive if there is indeed a sector pension fund active and large enough in the sector of the particular employer.

For multinationals with operations in more than one European country, there is the option of a cross-border pension fund. There is a small number of successful cross-border pension funds with Dutch plans. It appears to be a time-consuming road, as many parties need to be convinced. That is not always based on rational arguments: How would the average American employee react if his or her pension moved to Canada? There are Dutch pension vehicles (PPI’s) that can execute pension plans for foreign entities, but by law they can only do defined contribution (DC) plans. The PPI’s are not allowed to carry biometric risks. The Dutch may believe their pension system is the best in the world, but there is less confidence that it is convincing enough to attract foreign plans. Becoming able to execute cross-border plans is not the driver for the latest development.

The law will be changed to allow establishing pension funds that execute more than one plan for any employer. It will be allowed to ring fence the assets for different (groups of) contracts. Up to now, having multiple employers within one pension fund is only possible either for employers that are connected (legally or historically) or without the ring fencing (e.g., the sector funds). The new vehicle will be called the General Pension Fund (GPF, or APF in Dutch). It will allow for options that can be situated between insurers and the classic pension funds. If done well, it combines the best of both worlds: economy of scale, optimizing the investment returns, good governance without being too time-consuming, and risk pooling that is acceptable to members. In our opinion, it opens the door for new and innovative pension solutions.

Risk sharing within pension plans in the Netherlands

April 28th, 2015 No comments

Sagoenie-RajishDutch pension system
Like many other European countries, the Netherlands operates a three-pillar pension system. This consists of:

1. A government-provided pension.
2. An employer-provided pension.
3. Personal pensions purchased through individual savings.

The first pillar, government pension, provides a basic income to retired people in the Netherlands. It is financed through taxes and is based on a pay-as-you-go system. The pension provided is linked to the country’s minimum wage. An amount of 2% of the state pension benefit is accrued for each year that an individual has lived or worked in the country until the age of 67, with a maximum period of 50 years taken into account. Depending on the increase in nationwide longevity, the age of 67 will increase.

The second pillar consists of occupational pension schemes. Companies offering their employees a pension plan are obliged to administer these plans externally via a pension fund or an insurance company. Funding for these schemes is provided through employer and member contributions and is based on capitalization. A majority of employers used to bear all the risk for these schemes but, in line with globally changing attitudes, there has been a move toward risk-sharing types of schemes. This pillar is discussed in further detail below.

The third pillar consists of annuities and pensions bought from individual savings. It is the main source of postretirement income for self-employed individuals and individuals working for organizations that do not provide a pension. To encourage people to make use of this pillar, tax incentives (within limits) are provided by the government.

In 2014 and 2015 the tax incentives in the second and third pillars were further limited. The annual salary on which the pension is based is limited to EUR 100,000.

Read more…

Benefits side by side: DC vs. DB vs. VAPP

April 22nd, 2015 No comments

Coffing-KellyVariable annuity pension plans (VAPPs) provide secure, lifelong, inflation-protected retirement benefits. VAPPs combine the best of what traditional defined benefit plans do regarding longevity protection and lifelong income and what defined contribution plans can do to combat inflation. In this presentation, I explain the advantages for retirees of VAPPs compared with these more traditional plan structures.

For more information on VAPPs, click here, or visit our reading list.

Plan funding side by side: Traditional DB and VAPP

April 16th, 2015 No comments

Coffing-KellyIn recent months, we have featured quite a few articles on the resurgence in popularity of variable annuity pension plans (VAPPs). They provide lifelong inflation-protected benefits to participants while employers make predictable plan contributions, similar to 401(k) plans.

In this presentation, I discuss how funding a VAPP compares with funding a traditional defined benefit pension plan. The presentation also touches on how Milliman helps plan sponsors stabilize benefits for retirees through reserves.

For more information on VAPPs, click here, or visit our reading list.

Communication is key to achieving high take-up rates for pension lump-sum cash out programs

April 7th, 2015 No comments

Bentz-JulieOne of the ways many organizations are reducing pension risk is by offering a lump-sum cash out opportunity, or “window,” to former employees. Successful cash outs can reduce participant-driven fees and future plan liabilities, as well as protect plan sponsors from unexpected plan costs. But without a high response rate, cash outs won’t deliver the desired results. That’s where communication comes in: successfully notifying and educating participants of their cash out options is key to achieving the highest possible response rate.

Generally, Milliman has seen that a program with an effective communication campaign can achieve take-up rates in the range of 50% to 60%. Consider these proven steps to communicate your lump-sum cash out option:

1. Plan for success. Determine how to get your communications into their mailboxes, literally. Do you have good addresses? How about email addresses? If not, how can they be found?

2. Make the message clear. Separate information from action to simplify the decision-making process and to ensure that participants aren’t overwhelmed with their options. Highlight what they need to know, what they need to do, and where they can find help along the way. Communication should be carefully presented as unbiased and understandable options.

Our lump-sum communication plan is supported by what the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported regarding the eight key types of information participants should have for a sound understanding of a lump-sum offer. Your communication should answer the following questions:

• What benefit options are available?
• How was the lump sum calculated?
• What is the relative value of the lump sum versus the monthly annuity?
• What are the potential positive and negative ramifications of accepting the lump sum?
• What are the tax implications of accepting a lump sum?
• What is the role of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PGBC) and what level of protection does the PGBC provide on each benefit option?
• What are the instructions for either accepting or rejecting the lump sum?
• Who can be contacted for more information or assistance?

An appealing design should complement a clear message. Design, layout, graphics, and colors are all factors that can make the difference between something that gets a response and something that gets ignored.

3. Reinforce the message. Don’t expect one mass mailing to do the job. Include multiple touch points to announce the window, educate about the opportunity, and provide reminders about the deadline.

4. Offer support. Be sure to consider where participants can go for help, whether that’s a call center, human resources (HR) department, or outside financial advisors. Then provide the service team with materials such as frequently asked questions (FAQs), communication samples, and training to prepare them to answer questions and support the initiative.

5. Go the extra mile. To boost the response rate, you may also want to consider additional touch points, such as:

• Webinars with overviews of pension benefits, discussions of lump sums versus annuities, and other considerations
• Letters for special situations, such as qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs), alternate payees, etc.
• Individual consultations with experienced retirement education specialists
• Group meetings to walk through the statement, form, and election process
• A website with personalized statements, online election capabilities, and daily reporting of response rates

2014 a so-so year for most multiemployer plans

March 18th, 2015 No comments

Campe-KevinMilliman today released the results of its Spring 2015 Multiemployer Pension Funding Study (MPFS), which analyzes the cumulative funded status of all U.S. multiemployer pension plans. These pension plans experienced little movement last year, slipping slightly from an 81% funded status at the end of 2013 to an 80% funded status at the end of 2014. As was the case in 2013, many mature plans are still struggling to recover from the financial crisis.

mpfs-1

While the market value of assets for all multiemployer plans increased by $7 billion, the liability for accrued benefits outpaced these gains, growing by $12 billion and resulting in an increased shortfall of $5 billion.

People assume that the stock market recovery would be enough to push these multiemployer plans back to where they were in 2007, but it’s not that simple. Liabilities have been growing at 7.5% per year on average, which complicates a full recovery.

Approximately 15% of multiemployer pension plans are less than 65% funded as of December 31, 2014, and over half of the $117 billion aggregate shortfall for all multiemployer plans is attributable to these plans. On the positive side, about 22% of all multiemployer plans are over 100% funded.

The study notes that the recently enacted Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 provides new tools to the trustees of the most severely underfunded multiemployer plans.

To download a copy of the entire study, click here.

UK pension reform offers new opportunity

March 5th, 2015 No comments

People retiring after April 1 in the UK will have the freedom to do whatever they like with the money from their various pension plans. This FT Adviser article by Milliman’s Colette Dunn and Russell Ward offers perspective on the effect reform will have on an individual’s risk and also on the impact on defined contribution pension schemes.

Here is an excerpt:

To reflect changing retirement patterns and provision, DC schemes need to offer flexibility. Individuals want the flexibility to postpone retirement and/or phase pension income, to align with continued participation in work. These are two fundamental ways for individuals to manage the risk that pension income will be less than they require. Flexibility to integrate the Nest pension with other pensions so that the total pension income is level could also be beneficial. Individuals also want to have their money when they need it. In other words, they require flexibility in terms of sequencing. For example, individuals may want a lump sum when they retire to update their house, buy a new car or go on holiday. They may also need an increased income towards the end of their retirement if they need to fund care costs.

It is clear that the next generation of products need to enable ongoing advice. As the circumstances of the retiring individual evolve, their retirement solution must have the ability to adapt, so that they can respond dynamically to changing needs.

Given an individual’s need for certainty in retirement, we expect guarantees to remain in demand for at least part of their solution.

…The new environment provides an opportunity for advisers to help individuals throughout their retirement, and for providers to offer solutions which recognise the changing needs and regulatory environment. This will enable individuals to make better choices which provide improved risk-adjusted returns on their retirement savings and deliver a better overall chance of meeting their goals. The tools and techniques required to deliver these solutions are available now.

Retirement plans: Key dates and deadlines for 2015

February 13th, 2015 No comments

Milliman has published 2015 retirement plan calendars for single-employer defined benefit (DB) plans, multiemployer defined benefit plans, and defined contribution (DC) plans. Each calendar provides key administrative dates and deadlines.

2015 single-employer defined benefit plans calendar
2015 multiemployer defined benefit plans calendar
2015 defined contribution plans calendar

Along with downloading each calendar, be sure to follow us at Twitter.com/millimaneb where we tweet upcoming dates and deadlines for plan sponsors.