Longer life expectancy poses threat to pension plans: report
New figures confirm that life expectancy in Canada has increased — a trend that poses a threat for pension plan sponsors and, ultimately, for plan members.
According to updated mortality tables recently released by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the life expectancy of a 60-year-old male today has increased by 2.9 years — from 24.4 to 27.3 years — compared to pension mortality tables currently in use.
The life expectancy of a 60-year-old woman has increased by 2.7 years — from 26.7 to 29.4 years.
All of which is good news, of course, unless you're the one who has to figure out how to pay for those extra golden years.
If plan sponsors need to cover more retirees for longer periods of time, this will inevitably lead to increased pension liabilities for employers and also require bigger pension contributions from their workers, experts warn.
"Increasing life expectancy could mean that employees with a DC or capital accumulation plan will need to save more in order to afford retirement," says Michelle Loder, a consultant with Towers Watson.
"This could result in employees delaying their retirement until they have accumulated sufficient retirement savings, possibly challenging employers’ ability to manage career progression and workforce objectives."
Although the effect will vary from plan to plan, acceptance of the study's prediction of future mortality improvements could also immediately increase pension accounting liabilities by 5% to 10% for many plans, Towers Watson estimates.
That means the retirement age in many plans will need to go up, Jim Leech, CEO of the giant Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, told the Globe and Mail recently.
"Guaranteed benefit levels shouldn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles. Things like early retirement provisions, the ability to retire when you’re 55, it’s nice but somebody has to pay for it. … These things need to be made contingent, so they’re not guaranteed; they’re there if there's enough money for them."
Has your employer been talking about increased contributions to the pension plan recently? How have things been changing?
By Gordon Powers, MSN Money