What Is a Statement of Changes in Net Assets Available for Pension Benefits?
A statement of changes in net assets available for pension benefits is a report on the financial status of a retirement fund that is provided periodically to participants in the plan. It gives plan members a regular accounting of all transactions that affect the total available in the fund.
The purpose of the statement is to give current employees and retirees a sense of a company's ability to meet its retirement funding commitments.
- This statement notifies employees and retirees of the financial health of the funds they will rely on in retirement.
- If you have a defined-contribution plan, the performance of this fund will determine your payout at retirement.
- If you have a defined-benefit plan, the company is committed to a set pension amount no matter how the fund performs.
Understanding the Statement of Changes
While the formats and details of pension fund statements vary, the statement of changes in net assets available for pension benefits must always list all additions and deductions from the available asset list for the pension fund.
Typically, the largest adjustments will involve additions or subtractions to the value of investments made by the fund managers.
Additions to the available benefits will include employer contributions to the plan. Deductions will include administrative expenses and tax payments as well as pension benefits and death benefits paid out.
Importance of the Statement to Participants
The statement of changes in net assets for any given period may indicate significant changes in the value of the assets in the fund. This is of interest to any fund participant, but it is most relevant to those who have a defined-contribution plan rather than those who have a defined-benefit plan.
- Participants in a defined-contribution plan contribute a set amount of money from each paycheck to a retirement fund. The employer may match part of that contribution. The performance of the fund over time determines the amount that the participant will have for retirement income.
- Participants in a defined-benefit plan, on the other hand, have a pre-defined pension payout amount that will not change with the ups and downs of the plan's assets. The amount is based on the employee's salary and length of service. That means the company, not the employee, assumes the risk of the investments made for the fund.
About Pension Plans
Defined benefit plans are still common for employees of state and local governments but have become relatively rare in the private sector. They are essentially a type of life-time pension.
The defined contribution plan, including tax-advantaged varieties such as the 401(k), has replaced the defined benefit plan as the choice of private companies.
Pension funds represent large, long-term liabilities and require complicated accrual accounting. Several common factors play into the complications of pension fund accounting, all of which will impact the statement of changes in net assets. These factors include the need to make estimates of the size of payments to future retirees and the value of investment returns from year to year.