Defined-benefit pension plans are best suited to high-income entrepreneurs over the age of 45 who are able to sock away lots of money fast — up to $175,000 annually. With such a plan, you set a target level of annual benefits you want to receive at a target age and then make contributions based on actuarial projections.
The downside, however, is that these plans are more complex and costly to administer than defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k) plans, and they also require lump-sum distributions at retirement. With those caveats in mind, there are some enticing plan benefits, including:
- Guaranteed retirement income.
- Asset protection from creditors.
- Larger income tax deductions than defined-contribution plans.
- Fast accumulation of retirement income.
- Plans are insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC).
Define your target benefitYour target benefit can be based on a fixed percentage of your annual income, or you can choose a flat monthly dollar amount.
File appropriate formsWith a defined-benefit plan, you must file certain IRS forms annually and pay premiums to the PBGC, which insures the plan. These costs can drag down returns, unless you're contributing large sums of money
Form 5500 and a Schedule B from the IRS. Note that an enrolled actuary must sign the Schedule B.
Hire an administrator and actuaryBecause defined-benefit plans are so complex, you'll have to hire a retirement plan specialist to administer the plan and an actuary to calculate contributions and valuations. Many major retirement plan providers offer both these services.
Consider feesSince defined-benefit plans have gone mainstream, there's more help available when implementing a plan. However, you'll want to note advisor fees.
Consider a 412(i) planTraditional defined-benefit plans allow for up to approximately $160,000 in annual contributions. Another type of defined-benefit plan that's gaining popularity is called a 412(i) and lets you contribute significantly more each year — up to $450,000 annually with some providers.
Choose additional retirement plansHaving a defined-benefit plan doesn't exclude you from holding other types of retirement plans as well. Consider other options, such as a 401(k), SEP or Roth IRA.
- Proposals made in Washington may simplify plan administration considerably in future years.
- Plans must be opened by the end of your company's fiscal year to make contributions for that year.
- Remember, even if your business is losing money, you must fund your plan at least quarterly.
- Avoid aggressive plan investments, because if you have losses, you'll have to make them up through dramatic increases in contributions.
- Think of a defined-benefit like a mortgage: the capital you need determines your annual payments.
- If you plan on hiring in the future, note that tax codes may require you to make contributions for employees.