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New Trends in Pension Benefit and Retirement Provisions

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  • Olivia S. Mitchell

Abstract

Private sector pension plans have undergone substantial change in form and structure in the United States over the last two decades. This paper explores and evaluates these changes using information on pension plan characteristics gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) since 1980 in their periodic Employee Benefits Survey (EBS) of medium and large establishments. We also discuss how future data collection efforts could be improved to better measure key changes in the form and design of employer-sponsored pensions. Key findings are as follows: Many aspects of defined benefit plans changed over time. For example, vesting rules were loosened; plans eased access to normal retirement; and pension benefit formulas moved toward final rather than career earnings, with increased weight on straight-time pay. In addition, these plans became more integrated with social security; at the same time, the form of social security integration changed substantially. The evidence also indi6ate that defined benefit plan replacement rates fell over time and benefit caps limit years of service counted in the retirement formula. In addition, disability benefit provisions grew more stringent; and participants were increasingly permitted to take a lump sum from their defined benefit plan. Defined contribution plans also have evolved over time. Here, plan participants were granted greater access to diversified stock and bond funds, and fewer were permitted to invest in own-employer stock, common stock funds, and guaranteed insurance contracts. Participation and vesting rules appear most lenient for workers in 401(k) plans; generally employees must contribute a fraction of their pay to their plans rather than relying only on employer contributions; and employee access to pension fund assets fund assets prior to retirement is growing.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania in its series Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers with number 00-06.

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Date of creation: Feb 2000
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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennin:00-06

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  1. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1993. "The Role of Pensions in the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1997. "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 5912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1990. "Pensions and the U.S. Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 3331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Rebecca A. Luzadis & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1989. "Explaining Pension Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 3084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alan Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Thomas L. Steinmeier, . "Retirement Measures in the Health and Retirement Survey," Pension Research Council Working Papers 94-2, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  6. Phillip B. Levine & Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, . "Women on the Verge of Retirement: Predictors of Retiree Well-being," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-2, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Phillip J. Levine & Olivia S. Mitchell & John W. Phillips, 1999. "Worklife Determinants of Retirement Income Differentials Between Men and Women," NBER Working Papers 7243, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Olivia S. Mitchell & David McCarthy & Stanley C. Wisniewski & Paul Zorn, . "Developments in State and Local Pension Plans," Pension Research Council Working Papers 99-4, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  9. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, . "Evaluating Pension Entitlements," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-20, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  10. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1991. "Trends in Pension Benefit Formulas and Retirement Provisions," NBER Working Papers 3744, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Olivia S. Mitchell & Gary S. Fields, 1983. "The Economics of Retirement Behavior," NBER Working Papers 1128, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Olivia S. Mitchell & Rebecca A. Luzadis, 1988. "Changes in pension incentives through time," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 42(1), pages 100-108, October.
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