Save time with our cheat sheets, fact sheets, checklists & books!

February 19, 2009

Defined benefit plan (Defined benefit pension plan )

Your Guide



An employer sponsored qualified-plan, where employee benefits are intended to be  predetermined and guaranteed. Typically, a participant is promised a monthly benefit upon retirement. This amount may be a stated amount, such as $200 per month , or based on a formula that takes into consideration salary and years-of-service. An example of a benefit-formula is an 1-percent of average compensation ( averaged over the last three years-of-employment) on a monthly basis.

Plan sponsors are required to make up for any deficiencies caused by poor market performance, so as to ensure participants receive their promised benefits

A defined benefit plans uses actuarial assumptions to fund the plan, based on the promised benefits to participants.

Benefits in defined benefit plans are  usually protected  up to certain amounts, by federal insurance provided through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

Referring Cite

IRC § 414(j), ERISA §3(35);

Additional Helpful Information

  • Defined benefit plans are ideally suited for employers that want to fund the plan with higher contribution amounts  than that which is permitted under a defined contribution plan, and does not mind the high associated expenses .
  • Defined benefit plans are the most expensive to maintain of all the employer sponsored plans, but is the most effective in attracting high-quality employees in cases where the type of retirement plan is a tiebreaker for the potential employee.

Written By

Denise Appleby

Denise is CEO of Appleby Retirement Consulting Inc., a firm that provides IRA resources for financial/ tax/legal professionals. She has over 20 years of experience in the retirement plans field, which includes training and technical consultation.

Denise writes and publishes educational /marketing tools for advisors; available at Denise co-authored several books on IRAs

Denise is a graduate of The John Marshall Law School, where she obtained a Masters of Jurisprudence in Employee Benefits, and has earned 5 professional retirement designations.
She has appeared on numerous media programs, sharing her insights on retirement tax laws.


Keep Learning


Definition A deduction is a Tax write-off which is allowed for contributions to traditional IRAs or employer sponsored plans. Individuals who are active participants are

Annual Addition Limit

Definition The annual Addition limit is the maximum amount that may be added to a defined contribution plan on behalf of a participant for any

SIMPLE 401(k) Plan

Definition A SIMPLE 401(k) plan is a 401(k) plan  established by a small business for it’s employees. Earnings accrue on a tax-deferred basis and distributions

Salary Deferral Contribution

Definition A contribution made pursuant to a participant’s election to have a portion of his/her salary/wages  contributed to his/ her employer sponsored plan  rather than

Be among the first to know when

IRA Rules