Bridge over ocean
1 July 2017 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 73, Issue 3

Funding Ratio Peaks and Stalls

  1. Martin L. Leibowitz, PhD
  2. Stanley Kogelman
  3. Anthony Bova, CFA

Virtually all investment plans share the ultimate goal of providing financial support for some class of beneficiaries. A plan’s long-term financial health is typically measured by its funding ratio—the market value of assets divided by the present value of liability. Although this funding ratio is intuitively appealing, it may be misleading because it represents only a momentary snapshot of plan sustainability. Even with a high initial value and reasonable return assumption, the funding ratio’s time-path (orbit) often shifts from a rise to a “stall” to a precipitous decline. In this article, we focus on how funding ratios evolve over time, using the concept of “fulfillment return” to clarify the limitations of the single-point funding ratio measure.

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