60% of U.S. Corporate Pensions Now Closed to New Entrants

By SHRM Online staff May 13, 2011

The first in a planned continuing survey of U.S. finance and HR executives who are responsible for managing corporate defined benefit pension plans reveals that:

36 percent of U.S. defined benefit plans are “active” in that the plan is active and open to new hires.

31 percent are “closed” in that the plan is closed to new entrants but participants are still accruing benefits.

30 percent are “frozen” in that the plan is closed to new entrants; participants are no longer accruing benefits, but the termination process has not started.

3 percent are “terminating” in that the plan is closed, accruals are frozen and the termination process is under way.


The findings are from the inaugural SEI’s Pension Lifecycle Meter, released in May 2011 by wealth management firm SEI. The "meter" will be updated twice a year, in May and November.

“The goal of this meter is to provide insight into the current state and potential future direction of corporate pension plans in the U.S.,” said Jon Waite, director of investment management advice and chief actuary at SEI’s institutional group. “With such a high percentage of plans currently being closed or frozen, it is important that plan sponsors have a full understanding of how to de-risk the portfolio as funded status improves. Closed and frozen plans have different—but no less time-intensive—needs for strategic management, and plan sponsors need to have the proper resources in place to continuously manage this process.”​

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