The author summarizes the value of assets held in retirement plans and how retirement plan issues have changed since the 2008–09 global financial crisis and the Great Recession.
The author summarizes the value of assets held in defined benefit plans, IRAs, and defined contribution plans. Employers are now more likely to offer defined contribution plans, such as a 401(k), rather than defined benefit plans.
How Is This Article Useful to Practitioners?
This article is useful to practitioners because it succinctly summarizes the current and recent historical statistics on retirement plan assets. In 1989, 42% of full-time workers in the private sector were enrolled in defined benefit plans. Since then, the retirement savings landscape has changed dramatically. By 2012, only 20% of full-time workers in the private sector participated in defined benefit plans, and a quarter of these workers were in frozen plans that locked out new workers or no longer accrued benefits for participants.
Employers are now more likely to offer such defined contribution plans as 401(k) plans. In 2012, 50% of full-time workers in the private sector were enrolled in such plans, up from 40% in 1989.
Between 1990 and 2011, the combined value of assets held in defined contribution plans and IRAs increased sixfold, while assets in defined benefit pensions doubled. The impact of the stock market crash in 2008 was more dramatic for defined benefit plans, whose assets declined 37% from their peak 2007 value. In the third quarter of 2012, the value of defined benefit plans was still only $2.3 trillion—15% below their 2007 value in current dollars and 23% below their 2007 inflation-adjusted value.
In contrast to other retirement accounts, defined benefit plans have not fully recovered from the crisis and the Great Recession. Defined benefit plan freezes since 2007 have likely contributed to this shortfall. An explanation of why freezes were instituted with defined benefit plans but not with other retirement accounts would be helpful.