Tag Archives: Bret Linton

Coronavirus-related distribution considerations for DB and DC plan sponsors

A plan sponsor may wish to offer coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) during 2020 from a single-employer defined benefit (DB) plan as well as, or in addition to, a CRD from its defined contribution (DC) plan. Lump-sum payments from a DB plan may be treated as CRDs, similar to withdrawals from DC plan accounts.

If a plan sponsor chooses to offer CRDs from both the DB and DC plans, careful joint plan administration coordination needs to be taken as the total CRDs to an individual cannot exceed $100,000. In this Benefit Alert, Milliman’s Bret Linton, Vicki Mazzie, and Vanessa Vaag explain in more detail coronavirus distributions for DB plans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Forty percent of Milliman single employer DB plan clients defer contributions under the CARES Act

In the first general survey of defined benefit (DB) pension plan sponsor actions under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Milliman consultants report that, in 40% of their clients’ DB plans, cash contributions that would have been due on April 15, 2020, prior to the CARES Act were deferred. The due date was extended to January 1, 2021, under the CARES Act.

Milliman has written many times about the CARES Act since it was enacted on March 27. However, this is the first evidence of how employers sponsoring these plans have reacted to the new law and the strategic use of cash to finance current workforce obligations compared to long-term financial promises to plan participants during the extraordinary hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. CARES has given them some statutory relief to better assess ongoing cash commitments to these pension plans.

We acknowledge that some of our clients have other reasons under pension rules that did not require contributions before April 15. Such reasons could be that their plans were at least 100% funded or that prior contributions over the past years in excess of the statutory minimum amounts permitted them to use a “credit balance.”

We plan to follow up with more details as we discuss 2020 funding strategy with plan sponsors.

Employers and employees – sharing the risks of retirement

Over the past 40 years, the primary retirement plan offered by most employers has transitioned from traditional defined benefit (DB) plans to defined contribution (DC) plans. While these retirement plan designs offer important benefits to employers, the shift has created some negative consequences that are becoming evident as the first generation of DC-only participants begins to retire.

A hybrid retirement plan incorporating design features of traditional DB plans and DC plans may provide the best results for both employers and employees. In this article, Milliman consultants discuss how and why the first generation of DC-only retirees is struggling. They also explain how a hybrid retirement plan like the Milliman Sustainable Income Plan® (SIP) helps employers and employees share retirement risks in a more rational way.

Due diligence reduces pension plan’s purchase price

A Milliman client was considering an acquisition. But first, it needed to review the target’s single-employer defined benefit pension plan. On the client’s behalf, the firm reviewed the target’s latest pension valuation report and five-year projections to make a determination. Would this potential acquisition—and its pension plan—fit in with the client?

Consultant Bret Linton explains in more detail the work that Milliman did and what it meant for the client’s bottom line in his article “Mergers & acquisitions: Pension plan due diligence.”

Potential solutions for reducing PBGC premiums

Defined benefit (DB) plan sponsors continue to seek options to reduce their Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) premiums, especially the variable rate premium. Milliman actuary Bret Linton highlights the following three solutions for plan sponsors to consider in his article “The challenge: Reducing PBGC variable rate premiums.”

1. Additional contributions, credited to the prior plan year.
2. Borrowing capital at a lower interest rate than the PBGC variable rate.
3. Splitting the pension plan into two plans: one with only actives and a second with the remaining retirees and terminated vested participants.

Pension immunization strategy

Have you considered immunizing pension plan liabilities? If your pension plans are underfunded, is an immunization strategy an option? Many plan sponsors are looking for ways to immunize their pension liabilities and minimize volatility.

The benefit of fully immunizing a pension plan is that the funded status of the plan remains fairly stable and predictable given most economic conditions. Even for an underfunded plan, an immunization strategy is an option and can be implemented via a “glide path” investment approach. This approach moves assets into fixed income in favorable market conditions and as the plan becomes better funded. A glide path maintains a good balance of retaining equity investments and lowering volatility over time as the funded status improves.

In order to take advantage of an immunization strategy, it helps to know the funded status of pension plans on any given day. In order to do this, a daily discount rate must be developed. However, discount rate indicators are typically only available on a monthly basis. The most popular discount rate reference is the Citigroup Yield curve, but again, this is only available at the end of the each month. However, there are other tools available that can provide “live” market values of a pension plan, on a daily basis, by developing a daily discount rate. Whether the discount rate is developed with the Citigroup Yield curve or a custom bond model, this tool develops an accurate proxy of your plan’s discount rate.

Once a discount rate is developed, a dashboard or daily automatic tool that can measure the daily funded status of your plan is important with a glide path investment approach. To do this, the plan sponsor needs to define a market measure of liability (e.g., pension benefit obligation, or PBO), determine asset reallocation trigger points (based on a plan’s funded status), and have access to a tool that automatically determines the funded status of a pension plan on a daily basis.

During the summer of 2012, the interest rate environment continued to be volatile. Pension discount rates exhibited a downward trend and often jumped significantly from one week to the next. Plan sponsors who monitored the daily funded status of their pension plans were able to reallocate assets quickly during opportune investment windows and improve and/or maintain a favorable funded status.

Immunization of pension plans is not a new concept. This strategy is usually implemented when a plan becomes fully funded. The ability to implement an immunization strategy for underfunded plans, and to monitor daily market conditions and quickly make asset reallocations, is now available and even advantageous with recently available tools. In addition, the Milliman Managed Risk Strategy can be used during phased de-risking as a way to protect plan assets from the downside exposures of investing in equities. For additional information on this approach or tool, please talk to your Milliman consultant to learn more.