Assets held by private pension plans in 1995 totaled $2.7 trillion, an 18% increase from the $2.3 trillion reported in 1994. Defined contribution (DC) plan assets increased 22% in 1995 to $1.3 trillion while defined benefit (DB) plan assets increased 16% to $1.4 trillion. Defined contribution plans achieved a 20% aggregate rate of return (investment earnings and appreciation) in 1995, with additional asset growth arising from a positive cash flow of $17.3 billion (contributions minus benefit payout and administrative expenses). Defined benefit plans had a 21% aggregate rate of return in 1995, but achieved a lower overall rate of increase in total assets because of a negative cash flow of -$48.9 billion.

The 22% increase in DC plan assets was lead by a 28% increase in assets held by 401(k) type plans, from $675 billion in 1994 to $863 billion in 1995. Assets held in non-401(k) type DC plans increased 11% from $413 billion in 1994 to $458 billion in 1995.

In addition to the increase in 401(k) type plan assets, the number of 401(k) type plans and plan participants also grew at a strong rate, with the plan count increasing by 15% to 201,000, and the active participant count increasing by 11% to 28.1 million. The increase in 401(k) type plans resulted not only from the establishment of new plans, but also from the amendment of existing defined contribution plans to include a cash or deferred arrangement.

Other findings from the Form 5500 series reports filed for 1995 plan years are summarized below:

  • The number of private pension plans filing Form 5500 reports in 1995 was 693,400, a slight increase from the 690,300 plan count in 1994.

  • The number of DB plans decreased by 7% to 69,500, while the number of DC plans increased by 1% to 623,900. The number of DB plans has decreased each year since 1986 and the 1995 count is only 40% of the peak total of 175,100 plans in 1983.

  • Total active participants in private pension plans increased by 2% from 65.0 million in 1994 to 66.2 million in 1995. The long term patterns of decreases in DB plan active participants and increases in DC plan active participants continued in 1995, with DB plan active participants decreasing by 4% to 23.5 million and DC plan active participants increasing by 6% to 42.7 million.

  • Growth in pension plan participation under new plans is heavily concentrated in 401(k) type plans. Based on data from plans filing a 1995 5500 report, a total of 209,000 plans covering 11.7 million participants had establishment dates of 1990 through 1995. Only 4% of these plans, covering 14% of the participants, were DB plans, while 47% of the plans, covering 66% of the participants, were 401(k) type plans. The remaining 49% of the new plans, covering 20% of the participants, were non-401(k) type DC plans.

  • The median age of plans in 1995 was 17 years for DB plans, 6 years for 401(k) type DC plans, and 10 years for non-401(k) type plans.

  • In 1995, an estimated 81% of all private wage and salary workers with pension coverage participated in either a primary or supplemental DC plan and 51% participated in a DB plan. This is a strong reversal from 1975 when only 32% of pension covered workers were enrolled in DC plans and 87% were in DB plans.

  • DB plans are most common among large firms while DC plans are popular among firms of all sizes. The average number of participants per DB plan in 1995 was 632, with 87% of all DB plan participants in plans with 1,000 or more participants, and 56% in plans with 10,000 or more participants. The average number of participants in DC plans was 76, with 60% of DC plan participants in plans with 1,000 or more participants and 30% in plans with 10,000 or more participants.

  • An estimated 60% of all pension covered workers (and over 25% of all private wage and salary workers) were in 401(k) type plans in 1995, with 26% participating only in a 401(k) type plan and 34% also participating in another pension plan, most commonly a DB plan.

  • Benefit payments from plans to retirees, survivors, and terminating employees increased by 12% in 1995 to $183.0 billion. Benefits paid out by DB plans increased by 3% to $85.1 billion and benefit payments from DC plans increased 20% to $97.9 billion.

  • Total plan contributions increased 10% from $144.3 billion in 1994 to $158.8 billion in 1995.

  • Contributions to DB plans increased by 6% from $39.0 billion in 1994 to $41.4 billion in 1995. Defined contribution plans received $117.4 billion in contributions during 1995, an 11% increase over the $105.3 billion received in 1994.

  • The percentage of total DC contributions made by plan participants has been steadily increasing over the last decade and in 1995 was 6% higher than employer contributions to DC plans.

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