Financial Analysts Journal

Don’t Kill the Golden Goose! Saving Pension Plans

  1. M. Barton Waring
  2. Laurence B. Siegel

Defined-benefit (DB) pension plans are an endangered species; they are perceived as too risky and costly. But the emerging substitute, the defined contribution plan, has many shortcomings. The risk of DB plans can be controlled, first, by modeling the liability in terms of its market-factor exposures through surplus (asset minus liability) optimization. Then, sponsors may hold the minimum-risk position (a liability-defeasing portfolio) or they may move up on the efficient frontier—taking equity and other risks. The economic cost of a DB plan also needs to be managed, but it is a matter of managing the size of the pension promise; it is not an asset allocation problem.

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