Multiemployer Pension Plan Contribution Indices

The SOA is pleased to make available analysis of the funding progress made by contributions to the multiemployer pension plan (MEPP) system in the United States, authored by staff actuaries. The MEPP system carries significant unfunded liabilities, regardless of how they are measured. In general, contributions to these plans are negotiated between unions and employers for several years in advance and may not be directly linked with benefit levels.

These studies analyze the progress of MEPP contributions toward paying down unfunded liabilities, based on Department of Labor Form 5500 data. Note that reported employer contributions include but do not separately identify withdrawal liability payments, which are excluded from Minimum Required Contribution (MRC) calculations.

Highlights from the Most Recent Update

  • The most recent update is based on data available on Oct. 28, 2016.
  • From 2013 to 2014, aggregate unfunded liabilities declined by 16% using funding-basis discount rates, from $162 billion to $136 billion. Contributions are one factor affecting the improvement, although equity market returns also improved funded status. Using Current Liability rates, aggregate unfunded liabilities fell from $513 billion to $495 billion. Note that Current Liability discount rates were slightly lower for 2014 than for 2013, causing liabilities to increase slightly.
  • 2014 marked the first time in recent years that aggregate contributions met the benchmark for eliminating unfunded liabilities within 15 years when using funding-basis discount rates. However, when using Current Liability discount rates, 2014 contributions continue to fall significantly short of the level needed to maintain existing unfunded liabilities.
  • In 2014, about 45% of MEPP participants were in plans that received at least enough contributions to fund the plan within 15 years using funding basis discount rates, up from 35% the year before. However, using Current Liability discount rates, fewer than 1% of participants were in such plans.
  • Although nearly 90% of MEPP participants were in plans that received more contributions for 2014 than required by federal law, 30% of MEPP participants were in plans that did not receive sufficient contributions to maintain existing unfunded liabilities computed on the same basis, down from 45% for 2013. Regulations reduce the minimum required contribution by the “credit balance,” a mechanism for recognizing that a plan’s past contributions were more than the minimum required. [1]

To access the full reports, click the links below. If you have any questions about them, please contact Lisa Schilling at  lschilling@soa.org.

January 2017 Update

May 2016 Report

Acknowledgments

The SOA and authors extend special thanks to the individuals who volunteered their time and expertise to support the development of these reports, including the following actuaries. These articles do not necessarily reflect their views, nor the views of their employers.

  • Christian E. Benjaminson, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA
  • Bruce Cadenhead, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA
  • James B. Dexter, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA
  • Paul B. Dunlap, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA
  • Eric A. Keener, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA
  • Lawrence I. Pollack, FSA, EA, MAAA
  • Josh A. Shapiro, FSA, EA, MAAA
  • R. Dale Hall, FSA, CERA, CFA, MAAA, SOA Managing Director of Research
  • Andrew Peterson, FSA, EA, FCA, MAAA, SOA Senior Staff Fellow, Retirement Systems

[1]Funding requirements for MEPPs are set forth in Internal Revenue Code §§431-432 and accompanying regulations.