What Is a Pension Plan?


The pension scheme is an employee-sponsored retirement plan which pays employees a fixed amount of money at retirement, which is usually determined by how long they have worked for the company. The plans are gaining popularity as more companies offer 401(k) plan for retirement.

Key Takeaways

  • The pension program is kind of retirement plan offered by employers which pays employees a fixed amount of money during their retirement, typically dependent on the length of time they have worked for the business.
  • They are less popular because more employers are offering 401(k) pension plans.
  • Employers are responsible for financing conventional pension schemes. However, employees members of pension plans could choose, or be obliged to contribute.
  • Pension plans may benefit private-sector employees who intend to remain at a firm for the long term as well as public sector employees who intend to remain in the same area to continue to qualify to receive a government-sponsored pension.


Definition and Example of a Pension Plan

Pension plans are employee-sponsored, fixed-benefit plans for retirement which provides a source of income in retirement or after the end of an employee’s employment. They are available both in the public and private sectors however they are becoming less prevalent in the private sector.


In contrast to the 401(k), the pension plan is generally not funded with money from the employee’s pay. Instead, employers invest funds in a pension fund, which is transferred to the employees at retirement, as the defined benefits. Certain plans may need or allow contributions from employees, in addition.

In a pension plan, employees earn a predetermined amount in retirement, which is correlated to the length of time they have worked for the company. The pension is paid from the employers, rather then the employees.

Pension plans have an tradition going to 1875 when the first pension plan for corporate employees was created within the U.S. at the American Express Company. 1 Since the 1980s however pension plans have been slowly removed and replaced with defined-contribution plans like those offered by 401(k). 

How a Pension Plan Works

The traditional pension plan is defined benefit pension plans, which ensure that employees receive a specific amount at retirement, regardless of investment performance. It ensures that employees be paid a regular income every month following their their retirement age.

The way in which the pension is calculated is different for each plan. The amount of a pension is determined by the length of time an employee was employed by the employer prior to retirement.

Pensions can pay an amount fixed in dollars multiplied by number years that the participant has been a part of the plan or on an equation that takes into account the median of their final years of salary, their accrual rate, and duration of duration of. 


Private sector defined-benefit pension plans generally covered to a certain degree through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Refer to your “summary summary of plan” on your specific plan, to ensure the plan is covered by PBGC.

There are a few companies that offer pension plans. These comprise Coca-Cola, General Mills, and American Airlines. But it is true that only certain employees are eligible for participation in a pension plan. 4 These are typically people who’ve been working for the company for a lengthy duration of. 


Pension Plan vs. 401(k)

There are distinct distinctions between the conventional, defined-benefit pension plan and the corresponding defined-contribution plans, such as the 401(K).

Provides employees with a retirement benefit. retirement. It does not provide employees with the right to retire.
The funds are provided by the employer. The employees contribute a portion of their pay to an investment plan.
Employees may be required to contribute, or may be able to contribute. It could also include employer match up to a specific percentage.
Rarely does the company give employees the option of investing with their own choices. Employees are able to choose between investment options.

No Guaranteed 401(k) Benefit

It is a 401(k) is an escalating defined-contribution plan. Contrary to a defined benefit plan the 401(k) type of plan does not provide employees with any kind of retirement income. 6

The employee contributes a specific amount of their earnings into an account set up by their employer. Employers can provide a full or partial match of the employee’s contributions to the account.

Contributions are typically invested, and the balance of the account that the retiree draws the withdrawal will be reflected in any profits or loss. 

Employer Funds Pension

In the traditional pension plan the employer is usually accountable for the funding of your pension. However, employees members of pension plans could choose in contributing to your plan.

Although the 401(k) could provide a match from the employer however, it is the responsibility of the employees to make enough contributions to the 401(k) to provide for themselves when they retire.

Investment Selections

A 401(k) offers you greater control over your investment choices. You control your own investments through the 401(k) scheme.

Pension contributions are typically put into your account by the employer. Employers often enlist investment managers to make investment decisions.


Do I Need a Pension Plan?

There is probably no choice in the kind of retirement plan that is available to you. With just 14 percent of Fortune 500 firms offering defined-benefit plans and the 401(k) plan might be your only choice. 8 If your employer does provide a pension plan you can be sure that you’ll automatically be enrolling based upon a specific set of requirements like completing the required length of service.

Furthermore, though it’s not widely available companies that offer pension plans may also allow you to join the 401(k) scheme, allowing you the benefit of both.

If you are within the public sector (such as the military, law enforcement and public schools) is more likely to have access to a defined benefit (DB) retirement plan. As of the year 2020 86% of public sector workers are covered by DB pension plans as compared to only 15% of private sector employees. 3 However certain businesses that offer pension plans and 401(k) could require you to select between the two. It is worth considering signing up for an DB pension plan when you meet one of the following criteria.

You require income security in retirement

If you’re looking for a few source of income that is fixed in retirement The guaranteed income offered through a defined benefit pension plan might be very attractive. With the 401(k) account, there is no limitation on the amount your account could grow or decline in value. If it falls enough, you may overdraw your balance.

You plan to stay with the same company over the long run

If you plan to work for many years or perhaps all of your working life at a single firm, it might be beneficial to join the company’s plans for pensions. This is because you’re more likely to be fully invested in this plan. This will enable you to enjoy every benefit you earn. 

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever move

If the employment that makes you eligible for a pension plan is location-dependent–for example, if you work as a teacher, and the state runs the retirement plan–it may make sense to choose the pension as you will likely keep working in the same state.

You might want to consider enrolling in the 401(k) instead when you meet the requirements listed below.

You’re looking for a tax-advantaged choice

The traditional 401(k) plan lets you contribute pre-tax funds from your pay into the account, and this decreases the amount of tax deductible income. This option could be beneficial when you’re currently in a higher-income tax bracket and anticipate to be in an income tax bracket that is lower when you retire.

You’re planning to change businesses frequently

If you’re for a private company, or are planning to work for multiple public sector organizations throughout the course of your professional career, then you may not get the same benefits from a retirement plan as you might not get fully legally vested.

You’re looking for a retirement savings strategy

Pension plans may be subject to freezes that stop new participants from joining as well as buyouts where employers can offer lump-sum payments to ease the costs of payouts over the long term. However, 401(k) plans are taking over these plans, which means they’re poised to continue to be an option for retirement savings.


If your employer doesn’t provide any type of retirement plan make sure you manage your savings with an conventional IRA as well as an Roth IRA. It could let you contribute up to $6,000 a year between 2021 and 2022 ($7,000 when you’re 50 or over) in accordance with your income. 

If your company is one of the few who offer pension plans, be sure to do research on the plan before jumping at the chance of enrolling.

If you are a participant in pension plans, you should be aware of the particulars of it. Employers frequently hold workshops about the benefits of the plan and will explain the details of the plan at the orientation. If you’re not sure about the plan you’re receiving, your employer match or anything else related with the program, speak with a representative for human resources within your company.

Once you are aware of what to expect from your pension plan, assess it against other sources of retirement income and alter your savings plan in order to improve your chances of a comfortable retirement.

the authorAaron Krause

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