The Disappearing Defined Benefit Pension and Its Potential Impact on the Retirement Incomes of Baby Boomers

By Butrica, Barbara A.; Iams, Howard M. et al. | Social Security Bulletin, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Disappearing Defined Benefit Pension and Its Potential Impact on the Retirement Incomes of Baby Boomers


Butrica, Barbara A., Iams, Howard M., Smith, Karen E., Toder, Eric J., Social Security Bulletin


This article uses a microsimulation model to estimate how freezing all remaining private-sector and one-third of all public-sector defined benefit (DB) pension plans over the next 5 years would affect retirement incomes of baby boomers. If frozen plans were supplemented with new or enhanced defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, there would be more losers than winners, and average family incomes would decline. The decline in family income would be much larger for last-wave boomers born from 1961 through 1965 than for those born from 1946 through 1950, because younger boomers are more likely to have their DB pensions frozen with relatively little job tenure. Higher DC accruals would raise retirement incomes for some families by more than their lost DB benefits. But about 26 percent of last-wave boomers would have lower family incomes at age 67, and only 11 percent would see their income increase.

Introduction

The percentage of workers covered by a traditional defined benefit (DB) pension plan that pays a lifetime annuity, often based on years of service and final salary, has been steadily declining over the past 25? years. From 1980 through 2008, the proportion of private wage and salary workers participating in DB pension plans fell from 38? percent to 20? percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008; Department of Labor 2002). In contrast, the percentage of workers covered by a defined contribution (DC) pension plan-that is, an investment account established and often subsidized by employers, but owned and controlled by employees-has been increasing over time. From 1980 through 2008, the proportion of private wage and salary workers participating in only DC pension plans increased from 8? percent to 31? percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008; Department of Labor 2002). More recently, many employers have frozen their DB plans (Government Accountability Office 2008; Munnell and others 2006). Some experts expect that most private-sector plans will be frozen in the next few years and eventually terminated (Aglira 2006; Gebhardtsbauer 2006; McKinsey & Company 2007). Under the typical DB plan freeze, current participants will receive retirement benefits based on their accruals up to the date of the freeze, but will not accumulate any additional benefits; new employees will not be covered. Instead, employers will either establish new DC plans or increase contributions to existing DC plans.

These trends threaten to shake up the American retirement system as we know it because of vast differences between DB and DC pension plans, including differences in coverage rates within a firm, timing of accruals, investment and labor market risks, forms of payout, and effects on work incentives and labor mobility. DB pensions are tied to employers who, consequently, bear the responsibility for ensuring that employees receive pension benefits. In contrast, DC retirement assets are owned by employees who, therefore, bear the responsibility for their own financial security.

This article simulates how the shift from DB to DC pensions might affect the distribution of retirement income among boomers under two different pension scenarios: one that maintains current DB pensions, and one that freezes all remaining DB plans in addition to a third of all state and local plans over the next 5? years. The analysis uses the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) microsimulation model to describe the potential impact of the pension shift on boomers at age? 67. The article examines both changes in retirement income and the numbers of winners and losers, and it compares these outcomes among individuals grouped by sex, educational attainment, marital status, race/ethnicity, years of paid employment, and quintiles of lifetime earnings and retirement income. Of principal concern is whether income from increased DC plan coverage will compensate for the loss of DB plan benefits.

Background

There are two general types of pensions: DC plans and traditional DB plans.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Disappearing Defined Benefit Pension and Its Potential Impact on the Retirement Incomes of Baby Boomers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.