Milliman, Inc., a premier global consulting and actuarial firm, today released the results of its latest Pension Funding Index (PFI), which analyzes the 100 largest U.S. corporate pension plans. During November, the funded ratio for these plans rose slightly, from 86.1% to 86.8%, while the funded status deficit improved by $15 billion.
An investment gain of 0.93% helped boost the funded status of the Milliman PFI in November, with the market value of assets improving by $11 billion for these plans. This is the second month in a row investment returns for the PFI plans have exceeded expectations while discount rates have remained nearly flat.
November's one-basis point change in the monthly discount rate, from 3.08% at the end of October to 3.09% as of November 30, resulted in the PFI projected benefit obligation (PBO) decreasing by $4 billion. November's discount rate continues to rank among the lowest rates ever recorded in the 19-year history of the Milliman PFI.
"Market performance in 2019 has been better than expected for corporate pensions, helping counteract the effect of the low discount rate environment on funding," said Zorast Wadia, lead author of the Milliman 100 PFI. "But let's hope history doesn't repeat itself this December, as a market correction like we saw in 2018 combined with low discount rates could be disastrous for corporate pensions."
Looking forward, under an optimistic forecast with rising interest rates (reaching 3.74% by the end of 2020 and 4.34% by the end of 2021) and asset gains (10.6% annual returns), the funded ratio would climb to 103% by the end of 2020 and 120% by the end of 2021. Under a pessimistic forecast (2.44% discount rate at the end of 2020 and 1.84% by the end of 2021 and 2.6% annual returns), the funded ratio would decline to 80% by the end of 2020 and 73% by the end of 2021.
To view the complete Pension Funding Index, go to http://us.milliman.com/PFI. To see the 2019 Milliman Pension Funding Study, go to http://us.milliman.com/PFS/. To receive regular updates of Milliman's pension funding analysis, contact us at [email protected].
Milliman is among the world's largest providers of actuarial and related products and services. The firm has consulting practices in healthcare, property & casualty insurance, life insurance and financial services, and employee benefits. Founded in 1947, Milliman is an independent firm with offices in major cities around the globe. For further information, visit milliman.com.
About the Milliman Pension Funding Study
For the past 19 years, Milliman has conducted an annual study of the 100 largest defined benefit pension plans sponsored by U.S. public companies. The results of the Milliman 2019 Pension Funding Study are based on the pension plan accounting information disclosed in the footnotes to the companies' annual reports for the 2018 fiscal year and for previous fiscal years. These figures represent the GAAP accounting information that public companies are required to report under Financial Accounting Standards Board Accounting Standards Codification Subtopics 715-20, 715-30, and 715-60. In addition to providing the financial information on the funded status of their U.S. qualified pension plans, the footnotes may also include figures for the companies' nonqualified and foreign plans, both of which are often unfunded or subject to different funding standards from those for U.S. qualified pension plans. The information, data, and footnotes do not represent the funded status of the companies' U.S. qualified pension plans under ERISA.