Thursday, November 15, 2012

Does Your Plan Have Undue Risk?

An actuary friend of mine was complaining about upcoming end-of-year DB disclosures and the fact that his clients had funding calculations coming up that were going to be based on low interest rates and equity markets that have plummeted since the election. I further heard that the underfunded plans that he works with were overfunded as recently as September 1.

I asked him about de-risking, liability matching and things like that. He said that his clients give up too much upside return by doing that. I guess they would rather have underfunded plans.

In about 2002, I gave a speech to a bunch of pension investment professionals. In it, I espoused long duration fixed income investments in DB plans despite that everyone knew that interest rates couldn't go any lower. Of course, they also knew that this would take interest rate risk out of the equation, but people treated me as if I had some sort of strange disease.

I know of a few plan sponsors who did what I said. They are the ones with well-funded plans now. I don't know about you, but I'm not smart enough to know where interest rates are headed on any particular day. Frankly, I have expected them to be headed upward for that entire 10-year period, but that's not the point. The point is that there are a number of risks inherent in DB plans in the US. Some are outside of the sponsor's control, but others fall within it.

Shouldn't a sponsor consider controlling the ones that they can.

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