EBRI Issue Brief

The Ongoing Growth of Defined Contribution and Individual Account Plans: Issues and Implications

Mar 1, 2002 20  pages


  • This Issue Brief discusses the implications of the growth of defined contribution (DC) retirement plans and individual account plans and the subsequent impact on employers, employees and retirement planning. It also presents a look at data regarding contributions to retirement plans, employer trends regarding retirement plans, and the potential impact of changes to the federal Social Security retirement system. The findings and data in this article are drawn from material presented at a policy forum sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute Education and Research Fund (EBRI-ERF) Dec. 7, 2001, in Washington, DC.
  • Today, prospective retirees need to be able to generate about 75 percent of their current income to maintain their standard of living in retirement, up from 63 percent of their income in 1997, according to the Replacement Ratio Study, by Aon Corporation and Georgia State University. However, the most recent data show a decline in the percentage of income that average employees are saving.
  • While it is too early to quantify, it does not appear that the retirement provisions in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRAA) are strongly influencing the movement to DC plans. However, employers appear very interested in the provisions of the new law with regard to both defined benefit (DB) retirement plans and DC plans.
  • The number of large employers offering DB plans continues to decline, from 85 percent in 1990 to 73 percent in 2000, according to the Hewitt study.
  • Although employers may have little influence over some factors that affect participation rates in voluntary retirement plans, they have various options to increase participation rates, such as "matching" employee contributions, offering loan features, and providing education to employees about the plans.