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December 2012

The last private industry pension plans: a visual essay

William J. Wiatrowski

Having sufficient income during retirement years is a concern for many Americans. In years past, many employers provided a pension plan— formally a defined benefit plan—that ensured periodic payments for the life of the retiree and his or her spouse. Such plans are becoming rare for workers in private industry. In 2011, only 10 percent of all private sector establishments provided defined benefit plans, covering 18 percent of private industry employees. Decades ago, broad coverage of these plans allowed the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to analyze and tabulate considerable detail about how they worked. Today, the declining number of plan participants limits such detail. This essay will explore the details of the last private industry pension plans.

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