Updated mortality tables proposed for pension plans

On May 22, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) released an exposure draft that includes new mortality tables that private-sector defined benefit pension plan sponsors and their actuaries consider in measuring retirement plan obligations. The proposed new tables, referred to as “Pri-2012” in the exposure draft, are generally designed to replace the tables known as “RP-2006.” The RP-2006 tables currently serve as the mortality basis for funding valuations and lump sum calculations, as well as for many companies’ accounting valuations.

The SOA indicates that most plan sponsors that update their mortality assumptions from the RP-2006 tables to the Pri-2012 tables “will experience only a small change in their pension liabilities, usually within plus or minus 1%.” The SOA also notes that the pension liability change will vary depending on a plan’s demographics and other assumptions (e.g., the discount rate) that are used to compute pension liabilities. According to the SOA, significant indicators of mortality are the participants’ “collar type”—white or blue—and income level, with the collar type being a stronger predictor of longevity than a plan’s benefit amount.

The total data set for the study included a substantial amount of multiemployer plan experience. However, the SOA found no significantly different mortality experience for participants in multiemployer versus single-employer plans, and thus did not produce separate Pri-2012 tables for multiemployer plans.

With regard to measuring retirement plan obligations under the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s accounting standards, employers that historically have chosen to use the most recent mortality tables published by the SOA will consider applying the Pri-2012 tables for measurement dates that occur after the SOA publishes the final version of the study, which is expected in the fall of 2019. At that time, the SOA also will likely and concurrently release an updated mortality improvement scale to succeed the currently used MP-2018 scale to estimate how mortality rates will change in the future.

Looking ahead, the IRS has already released the required mortality tables to measure pension obligations for 2020 funding valuations and to calculate lump sums for stability periods beginning in 2020. Therefore, the Pri-2012 tables will not be used for these purposes until at least 2021.

The SOA’s exposure draft can be found here. The deadline to submit comments on the exposure draft to the SOA is July 31, 2019. For additional information about the exposure draft or to assess the impact on your specific retirement plans, please contact your Milliman consultant.