Cash Balance Pension Plan: Pros & Cons and Withdrawals

cash balance pension plan

The cash balance pension plan is becoming increasingly common among self-employed and small business owners seeking to reduce their tax burden. This beneficial retirement plan also works well for those with high incomes who have put off saving for retirement. If your employer is transitioning from a conventional pension plan benefit formula to a modern cash flow pension plan benefit formula, you may have some concerns about how this will affect you. The following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. These answers do not constitute legal interpretations of ERISA or the Internal Revenue Code but provide general knowledge. In this article, we’ll also learn more about the pros and cons of this cash balance Pension plan, the withdrawals, and an overview of the calculator.

What is a Cash Balance Pension Plan?

A cash flow pension plan is yet another way of saying a cash balance plan. It is known as a defined pension plan. It’s a benefit provided by the employer and contributed to in the same way that a typical pension plan is.

We can also refer to the cash balance plan as a Cash Balance Pension plan. This is because the money that is allocated to it is designated to be money for later life events. A pension fund is any form of retirement plan under which money is contributed towards later life events.

It’s an eligible retirement plan that’s completely funded by the company. A cash balance plan provides for contributions of up to $3 million in 2021. It depends on your salary and how far you are from retirement. Business owners who contribute between $150,000 and $350,000 a year are more popular. This is normally in addition to a profit-sharing 401(k) account. The account has a combined contribution limit of $58,000 (employee + employer for 2021). In case you were curious, every dollar you contribute to a cash flow pension plan is tax-deductible.

How does Cash Balance Pension Plan Work?

Cash-balance workplace contributions for rank-and-file workers typically amount to around 6% of pay. This is opposed to the 3% contributions typical of 401(k) programs.

Participants are also entitled to an annual “interest credit”. This credit may have a fixed rate, such as 5%, or a variable rate, such as the 30-year Treasury rate. Participants will take either an annuity depending on their portfolio balance or a lump sum at retirement. This can then be rolled into an IRA or another employer’s package.

Employers may pay more for cash balance pension plans than 401(k) plans, in part. This is because an actuary must certify that the plan is properly funded each year. Setup fees range from $2,000 to $5,000, annual administration fees range from $2,000 to $10,000, and investment-management fees range from 0.25 percent to 1 percent of assets.

Withdrawals From Cash Balance Plans During Retirement

When you reach the retirement age specified in your plan, you can withdraw funds in one of two ways. An annuity, like a traditional pension, can make regular payments for the rest of your life. If your plan allows for lump-sum distributions, you can also withdraw a lump sum and invest it however you see fit. The mechanics of withdrawing funds from your plan are defined by your plan administrator. However, it will usually entail filling out paperwork or completing online forms.

Early Withdrawals from a Cash Balance Pension Plan

Your employer can lock up your cash-balance pension plan, preventing you from withdrawing funds other than through a rollover. You may be able to structure your retirement plan rollover as a cash distribution to you if you are eligible. If you retain the cash, you must pay income tax on the payout as well as a 10% penalty for the early cash balance pension plan withdrawal. Although 20% of your balance will be withheld, you are also responsible for your real taxes and fines, which may be more than 20%.

cash balance pension plan

Pros and cons of Cash Balance Pension Plan

Before you go for the cash balance pension plan, it is necessary to know the pros and the cons. Let’s look at some of them;

Cash Balance Plan Pros:

  • Employers can have a mix of eligible retirement programs, such as a 401(k) and a cash balance plan, allowing employers to optimize their contribution amounts.
  • Employees will contribute significantly more to these plans than to conventional plans.
  • Employee contributions vary by age; the older the participant, the more they will contribute.
  • The strategy is intended to provide steady, conservative growth.
  • Employees will receive their payout in the form of a lump sum. This can then be rolled over to an IRA or a new employer’s plan if the plan allows rollovers.
  • This form of plan is beneficial for high-income earners who may be unable to contribute to other programs or who are limited in their conventional plan contributions.
  • This package allows small-business owners to “catch up” on retirement plan payments if they did not invest as much when developing their companies.

Cash Balance Plan Cons:

  • Employers must pay an extra fee for cash flow plans for an actuary to certify that the plan is adequately funded on an annual basis.
  • These programs do not have investment options; instead, workers obtain an account balance statement at the end of the year.
  • Employees cannot choose how funds are spent because fund reserves are professionally handled by the employer or a supporting investment company.
  • Employees can need to include growth investments in their retirement savings plan due to the low returns.
  • Although the employee will obtain his or her compensation in the form of an annuity, and employers are expected to provide one, it is not suggested or normal since the plan will be terminated soon.

Now that we have seen the pros and cons of this cash balance pension plan, let’s see how the calculation works with a calculator.

Calculator for Cash Balance Pension Plans

Calculating your cash balance pension plan contributions, payments, and withdrawals is possible using tools/calculators. The July Cash Balance Pension Plan Calculator, Defined Benefit Plan Calculator, and Maximum Contribution Calculator are among the most prominent. Let’s take a look at how the Benefit plan calculator works.

Defined Benefit Plan Calculator Overview

What Is the Deduction for Defined Benefit Plans?

The Defined Benefit Plan Calculator calculates a FREE Defined Benefit pension. This tool is also a Cash Balance Plan Calculator since Cash Balance Plans are a form of Defined Benefit Plan. Pick your age, salary, and length of time in business using the sliders. If you are married and your spouse works for your business, provide the same details for your spouse. Employing your partner raises the amount of Defined Benefit deduction you will be eligible for.

As you pass the sliders, the Defined Benefit Plan Calculator can compute figures in real-time. This feature displays how the numbers shift with each input. Furthermore, since you do not have to “send” the details each time you alter it, you can run multiple scenarios easily.

Two figures are given by the Defined Benefit pension calculator:

  1. Level Contribution: The approximate Defined Benefit contribution level for the next ten years.
  2. Gross Contribution: The maximum amount that one can contribute in the first year. The maximum contribution yields a statistic that is a “front-load”. This option results in lower potential donations. Where one requires a greater deduction upfront or a longer compounding duration for “more dollars”, “over-contributing” in the early years can make sense.

How Inputs Affect the Calculation of Your Defined Benefit Plan

The Defined Benefit Plan Calculator determines the potential deductible contribution. How do the inputs affect the estimation of your Defined Benefit Plan?

  1. Age: In general, the higher your permissible contribution, the closer you are to retirement age. This is because when the horizon is shorter, higher Defined Benefit contributions are expected for a given benefit amount.
  2. Your Income: They can adjust your Defined Benefit limits according to your income. A three-year average income of $230,000 will have the full potential gain in 2021. A lower average income may reduce the Defined Benefit limit. However, this is not always the case. It is a product of the owner’s income and length of service to the company.
  3. Years in Business: As previously stated, the number of years in business may affect the Defined Benefit Plan cap if the average pay is less than $230,000 in 2021.
  4. Is Your Spouse an Employee of the Company? Having your spouse as an employee of the company allows you to theoretically double the deductible donation amount. The increase in allowable contribution will be a result of your spouse’s age, salary, and years of service to the company.

Increasing Your Contribution to a Defined Benefit Plan

Now that you understand how the inputs affect the Defined Benefit Plan estimate, consider the following options for increasing the maximum deductible contribution:

  1. Increase Your Earnings: Increasing your earnings would provide you with a higher cap. This is easiest to do if they tax you as a corporation. This is because higher W-2 salaries directly affect your contribution cap. However, you must balance the greater income tax deduction with higher payroll taxes.
  2. Hire Your Spouse in the Company: As previously stated, if your spouse works in the business, you will be able to double your deduction. In reality, you’ll pay the partner less than the primary owner of the company. The Defined Benefit deduction, on the other hand, maybe greatly increased depending on the spouse’s age and income level.
  3. Add a 401(k) Plan: If you are 50 or older, you will delay and subtract an extra $26,000 per person by implementing a 401(k) Plan. It also allows profit-sharing allocations.

How is a cash balance pension plan funded?

A cash balance pension plan is funded by contributions from the employer and may also include contributions from the employee.

What happens to an employee’s account balance if their employer goes out of business?

If an employer goes out of business, the employee’s account balance in a cash balance pension plan is protected by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

How is the interest rate determined in a cash balance pension plan?

The interest rate in a cash balance pension plan is typically determined by the employer and may be based on market rates or a set rate determined by the employer.

What happens to an employee’s account balance if they leave their employer?

If an employee leaves their employer, their account balance in a cash balance pension plan is typically paid out to them as a lump-sum distribution or rolled over into an individual retirement account (IRA).

How is a cash balance pension plan different from a 401(k) plan?

A cash balance pension plan is a defined benefit pension plan, while a 401(k) plan is a defined contribution plan. In a 401(k) plan, the employee is responsible for choosing investments and bears the investment risk, while in a cash balance pension plan, the employer is responsible for funding the plan and bears the investment risk.

What are the tax implications of a cash balance pension plan?

The tax implications of a cash balance pension plan depend on the specific plan and the circumstances of the employee. In general, contributions to a cash balance pension plan are made pre-tax, while distributions are taxed as ordinary income.


When it comes to retirement accounts, the aim is to encourage people to prepare for retirement while preventing them from using those loopholes.

Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to consider the pros and cons of cash flow pension plans so you can make the right choice.

Cash Balance Pension Plan FAQs

Can I cash out my cash balance pension plan?

Generally, you need to wait until you reach “retirement age,” which for 2016 is 59-1/2, to start removing money from a cash balance pension plan. … However, if you remove any of that money before you turn 59-1/2, you’ll be subject to takes on the amount withdrawn, plus a 10% early withdrawal penalty

Does my pension continue to grow after I leave the company?

Pension Options When You Leave a Job

Typically, when you leave a job with a defined benefit pension, you have a few options. You can choose to take the money as a lump sum now or take the promise of regular payments in the future, also known as an annuity. … Today’s small annuity will look even smaller in the future

Do I lose my pension if I get fired

?If your retirement plan is a 401(k), then you get to keep everything in the account, even if you quit or are fired. … However, if you are vested in the pension, then all the money in the account is yours to keep, even if you quit or are fired.

Does my pension continue to grow after I leave the company?

Pension Options When You Leave a Job

Typically, when you leave a job with a defined benefit pension, you have a few options. You can choose to take the money as a lump sum now or take the promise of regular payments in the future, also known as an annuity. … Today’s small annuity will look even smaller in the future.

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