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What is a Pension?

Pensions are income streams guaranteed to employees upon their retirement. A Pension is a type of Defined Benefit Plan in which your employer promises to pay you a certain amount every month for the rest of your life. Employers who are part of the pension plans are sometimes called pensioners. An employer retains the funds in a trust, usually, and everyone’s pension assets are pooled together in what’s called a Pension Fund. Continue reading...

If I Leave My Job, Will I Still Get a Pension?

You may not be vested in a pension if you lave too early, or you may have to accept a lower payout. This depends on how many years you worked for your employer, and other factors which are described in your pension plan document. In some cases, the employer can specify a minimum number of years you have to work for the company in order to receive a Pension. Otherwise, the amount you receive will be vested in portions over a few years, until you will be able to leave your job and keep 100% of the accrued Pension benefits. Continue reading...

How Do I Invest Money in My Pension?

Employees are not able to control investments in a Pension Fund, but you can control a few variables. You cannot direct investments in your pension. Since a pension is a type of Defined Benefit Plan provided by your employer, the company worries about the investments, and you will receive a fixed monthly payment that is calculated based on your age, salary, and number of years worked for the company. Continue reading...

Can I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan?

This is rarely an option, but the IRS does allow it. In general, you can’t withdraw money from a Pension Plan before you retire. You also may not be able to make non-recurring withdrawals after retirement, unless it is a lump-sum settlement. If your plan allowed it, the IRS would treat it just like withdrawals from a 401(k). Withdrawals before 59 ½ would be penalized with a 10% early withdrawal tax. Continue reading...

What Happens If I Withdraw Money From My Pension Plan After I Retire?

Usually such withdrawals will be in the form of income payments, but there may be other options. If the plan administrator allows it, you can make non-recurring (one-time) withdrawals from a pension fund. This is usually not allowed, however. The regular qualified plan distribution rules will apply as far as the IRS is concerned, and they may charge a 10% penalty if the withdrawals are taken before age 59½. After you retire, you’ll typically have two options: a fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life (also known as a Life Annuity), or a lump-sum payment. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Loan From My Pension Plan?

Generally this won’t be an option that your plan allows, but the IRS has approved it if the employer wants to. Generally speaking, you cannot. Hypothetically, if allowed in the plan document, and if the pension fund had enough of a surplus to handle such withdrawals, the IRS might find it permissible. The laws concerning such loans are the same for all qualified accounts, such as 401(k)s. An enrolled actuary would need to help you define when a loan might be allowable in particular deferred benefit plan. A Pension’s main goal is to pay out in retirement for the duration of the obligation, which may be your life and possibly the life of your spouse. Because of the massive liability they shoulder, pensions are inherently rigid and uncompromising when it comes to loans and withdrawals. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Lump-Sum Distribution From My Pension Plan?

There is no guaranteed option to make lump-sum distributions from pension plans. You may be able to take a lump-sum distribution, but the option is not always available. Most employers are eager to get another participant (liability) off the books. This kind of settlement is a lot like a debt settlement, in fact, that’s exactly what it is to the plan fund. As long as you are part of the plan, you represent an unknown quantity of liability, because they have to keep paying your benefits, and possibly spousal benefits for as long as either of you shall live. This is an option you may have upon reaching retirement, if the plan offers it to you. Continue reading...

What Should I Do With a Lump-Sum Distribution From My Pension Plan?

We encourage you to be responsible and keep the future in mind. The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s very easy to spend a lump sum right away without thinking about the consequences. While the monthly payment option protects your money from overspending, a lump sum should be handled with frugality and practicality in mind. A large portion of this amount should be invested safely and wisely, particularly if you are very near to your own retirement age, and you do not have time to ride out market fluctuations. When investing, you should consider a conservative estimate of you and your spouse’s life expectancies weighed against your annual income needs, adjusted for rising healthcare costs. Continue reading...

How are Pension Benefits Computed?

Enrolled actuaries must be used to establish the benefit formula.The amount of money you will receive (monthly) from your employer during retirement is calculated by a formula which incorporates your age, your salary, the number of years you worked for your employer, and other possible factors. The IRS stipulates that an enrolled actuary must be contracted to perform the calculations, with input from the employer, to determine how the benefit will be calculated and to make sure that the plan assets will be sufficient to pay the benefits when the employees reach retirement. Continue reading...

Will My Pension Payments Affect My Social Security Payments?

Not in the way you’re probably thinking, but the answer may be yes. Generally speaking, the answer is no. Your Social Security payments depend on two factors only: the age you started to receive Social Security benefits, and the amount of contributions you made to Social Security over the years. Your pension comes from your employer, and Social Security comes from the government. However, your tax liabilities might depend on the combination of your pension and Social Security benefits, and you social security benefits can actually be taxed. In one of the few calculations that has not been indexed for inflation lately, if your retirement income is over a certain number, up to 85% of your social security may be subject to tax as income. Continue reading...

Can I Take a Periodic Distribution from my Pension Plan?

Regular pension payments are periodic distributions. Yes. This will be the default option on pension arrangements, unless companies are trying to settle with pensioners for lump-sum amounts that will lessen the plan’s long term liability. The options for periodic distributions will always be for periods less than or up to a year in length. Periodic distributions can help you sleep better at night, knowing that you have a fixed stream of income for the rest of your life. It may not be enough to sustain your lifestyle completely, but it will give you a sense of financial security and prohibit overspending in a way that the lump-sum distribution does not. Continue reading...

What are Required Minimum Distributions?

RMDs are withdrawals that are mandatory for an individual to take from an IRA or 401(k) after the person has reached 70 ½. The government created laws that help and encourage people to save for their retirement by deferring taxes on the growth on certain qualified retirement investment accounts. On Traditional IRAs and 401(k) accounts, they are only waiting to get the tax revenue from distributions/withdrawals that are fully taxable as income. Continue reading...

What’s a Defined Benefit Plan?

Defined Benefit plans guarantee a certain amount of retirement income to an employee based on the employee’s current salary, years at the employer, and other factors. A Defined Benefit Plan involves a promise made to you by your employer to pay you a certain monthly “benefit” for the rest of your life, or for a certain number of years after retirement. The amount of the payment is pre-calculated using a formula which typically involves your age, your salary, the number of years you’ve worked for your employer, along with other factors. Continue reading...

What’s the Difference between a Defined Benefit Plan and a Defined Contribution Plan?

Defined Benefit plans and Defined Contribution plans can sometimes look similar, but the main difference is what is certain and defined. In a Defined Benefit Plan, your employer guarantees you a certain fixed monthly payment for the rest of your life, so the benefit is said to be defined. A Defined Contribution Plan’s only certainty is the amount that went into the employee account, so the contributions are defined. Continue reading...

Can I Decide How My Money is Invested in My Defined Benefit Plan?

Employees have no control over the assets in their Defined Benefit plan. The short and simple answer is: No. The payments you will receive in retirement are calculated according to a pre-determined formula. Your employer is responsible for managing the investments, while you simply receive the agreed-upon payments when they are due to you - assuming all goes as planned. Most pension funds, as they are sometimes called, are invested in very conservative instruments such as long term government bonds and fixed accounts offered by some insurance companies and banking institutions. Continue reading...

Can I Withdraw Money From My Defined Benefit Plan?

Most pensions will not allow in-service withdrawals but some will allow loans. While you are working for your employer, you typically may not withdraw money from your Defined Benefit Plan. The IRS permits plan loans if the plan administrator permits it. In-service withdrawals are possible after age 62, meaning money can get taken out before separation from service. If you leave your employer before retirement, the funds are usually kept in a Trust until you reach retirement age (or until a specified age at which you can start to receive the benefits). Continue reading...

How are My Retirement Benefits Computed?

Each Defined Benefit Plan has its own formula and therefore its own calculations. These formulas need to be arranged by an enrolled actuary to insure that they’ll work over time and will hold up to IRS scrutiny. In general, however, the calculations are strongly based on factors such as your age, your salary, and the number of years you have spent working for the company. For every bit of salary you collect, or length of time you add to your tenure, you add incremental amounts to the set benefit waiting for you in retirement. Continue reading...

Can Something Happen to My Defined Benefit Plan?

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will insure benefits up to a point, but it may not replace the full value of a pension if a plan goes belly-up. While the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) insures thousands of Pensions across the country, the entire benefit of your Defined Benefit Plan is in no way guaranteed. Some corporations can “freeze” your pension, meaning they stop the counter on the number of years you’ve worked, and use that as the number to calculate your monthly payments. Many pensions today are struggling after the long period of low interest rates on fixed instruments like government bonds. Continue reading...

Who Offers Defined Benefit Plans?

Any employer can offer a Defined Benefit plan, but not many do anymore. Before the introduction of Defined Contribution Plans, most large corporations such as General Electric, General Motors, etc. offered only Defined Benefit Plans. Over the years, it has put a huge burden on these corporations to guarantee the performance of these plans. If the plan has not performed according to the assumptions, the company would have to contribute the difference, which would have to come from their profits. In order to shift the burden to the employees, most companies now offer Defined Contribution Plans (such as 401(k)s, etc.) instead of Defined Benefit Plans. Continue reading...

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