DoL Data Book Reflects Boost in Cash Balance Offerings

April 13, 2007 ( - A new U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) publication of 2004 pension data shows a continued decline in the overall number of plans for the fourth year in a row, but a 30% leap in the roster of cash balance programs.

According to the bulletin, which includes the latest available data, the total number of pension plans lost ground in 2004 by 2.4%, to 683,000 plans. The cash balance plan increase was mostly due to a rise in the number of small plans.

The DoL data also reflects the now-well documented shift away from defined benefit and toward defined contribution plans, with a doubling of the amount of DC contributions made by employees since 1978 when 401(k)-type accounts were authorized. Workers put in 29% of the DC contributions then, but financed nearly 60% in 2004.

401(k) plans continued to grow in number in 2004, increasing from 404,000 to 419,000. The number of active participants grew slightly from 43.6 million to 44.4 million.

Highlights of the data report also included, according to the DoL:

  • DB plans increased by 1%, while DC plans fell by 2.7%. The decline in DC plans was led by a 30% giveback in the number of money purchase arrangements, which follows a 34% decrease in 2003.
  • Between 2003 and 2004, the total active participant count decreased slightly for the second year, from 73.1 million to 72.7 million. The number of active participants in DB plans decreased for the fifth year, by 3.3% in 2004.
  • Total pension plan assets reached $4.7 trillion in 2004, besting the previous high of $4.4 trillion in 1999. DB plan assets grew by 8.5% to $2.1 trillion, while DC plan assets decreased by 12.2% to $2.6 trillion. 401(k) plans grew 14% to a total of $2.2 trillion.
  • In 2004, pension plans disbursed $333.3 billion for payment of benefits, with $140.4 billion being disbursed from DB plans and $192.9 from DC arrangements.

The DoL’s Private Pension Plan Bulletin – Abstract of 2004 Form 5500 Annual Reports, published by the DoL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), was developed using data from 2004 Form 5500 annual plan filings.

The DoL publication is here .