In recent years, countries around the world have, to varying degrees, shifted from traditional defined-benefit pensions to defined-contribution plans, in which employees can choose how much they will contribute and how the funds will be invested. This trend can reduce equity allocations in three ways. First, employees often put too little into their retirement accounts. In the United Kingdom, for example, annual contributions to defined-benefit plans average between 16 percent and 20 percent of employee salaries (11 to 14 percent from employer and 5 to 6 percent from employee). In defined-contribution plans, total contributions range from 7 percent to 11 percent of salaries (4 to 7 percent from the employer and 3 to 4 percent from the employee). Moreover, the investment choices employees make in their defined-contribution plans tend to be similar to how they invest their non-retirement wealth. So, while Americans choose to put a high percentage of 401(k) or IRA funds into equities—as they do with their household portfolios—individuals in Europe, where such defined-contribution plans are being implemented now, do not. Europe’s eight largest defined-contribution plans allocate, on average, 22 percent of their assets to equities, compared with 35 percent in Europe’s eight largest defined-benefit plans .
1 Allocation based on a sample of the following plans: ABP, PFZW, ATP, Alecta, Royal Dutch Shell, Universities Superannuation, FRR, and Varma. 2 Allocation based on a sample of the following plans: Bayerische Versorgungskammer, BT Group, PFA Pension, Royal Mail, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Ilmarinen, British Coal Pension Schemes, and Barclays Bank UK. 3 Based on surveys of UK pension plans.