What is a DB and DC plan? Here’s the Plan Differences ⚡

People searching for the right retirement structure often have a basic question: what is a DB and DC plan? How do they work together?

There are many specific retirement structures that fall under these broad categories. Ensuring you have assessed your tax and retirement goals is critical.

In this post, we will explain what a DB plan and DC plan are and explain some unique differences. We’ll even show you how these different retirement structures can work together to form a great plan.

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Critical Points to Understand Regarding DB and DC Plans

A defined benefit plan (also called a pension) is a retirement plan where the payout at retirement is defined by a specified amount. A defined contribution plan (often a 401(k) or SEP) is a plan where contributions are made by employees and employers and the final amount at retirement depends on the account balance.

What is a DB and DC plan?

A DB (defined benefit) plan and a DC (defined contribution) plan are both types of retirement plans that are sponsored by an employer and offered to employees as a benefit.

A defined benefit plan is a type of retirement plan in which an employer promises to pay a certain amount of money to an employee upon retirement. The amount of the benefit is typically based on the employee’s salary and years of service with the company. The employer is responsible for funding the plan and investing the assets in order to pay the promised benefits.

A defined contribution plan is a type of retirement plan in which the employer and/or the employee contribute money to an individual account that is invested on behalf of the employee. The employee’s benefit at retirement is based on the balance in their account, which will depend on the contributions made and the investment returns earned over time. Some examples of defined contribution plans include 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans.

Both defined benefit and defined contribution plans have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for a given employer will depend on the specific needs and goals of the business.

How do the plans work?

As the plan names imply, a defined benefit plan (commonly referred to as a pension) provides a certain benefit amount upon retirement. However, a defined contribution plan allows participants to contribute a portion of their salary into the plan.

Which is a better plan?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether a defined contribution (DC) plan or a defined benefit (DB) plan is better. Both types of plans have their own advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for a given employer will depend on the specific needs and goals of the business.

DB PlanDC Plan
Permanent Plan StructureOptional Funding
Flexible Funding RangeEasy Set Up
Higher Administration CostsLow Administration Fees
Contribution in Excess of $100kRather Low Contributions

Some potential advantages of a defined contribution plan include:

  1. Flexibility: DC plans, such as 401(k) plans, allow employees to choose how much they want to contribute and how their contributions are invested. This can give employees more control over their retirement savings and allow them to tailor their investments to their individual needs and goals.
  2. Portability: DC plans are portable, meaning that the assets in an employee’s account can be transferred to a new employer or rolled over into an IRA if the employee changes jobs.
  3. Potential for lower costs: DC plans may be less expensive for employers to administer than DB plans, as the employer is not responsible for funding the plan and does not bear the investment risk.

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Some potential advantages of a defined benefit plan include:

  1. Predictable retirement income: DB plans provide employees with a predictable level of retirement income, which can be reassuring for employees who are planning for their retirement.
  2. Potential for higher benefits: Because DB plans are funded by the employer, they have the potential to provide higher benefits than DC plans, which are funded by employee contributions.
  3. Tax benefits: Contributions to a DB plan may be tax-deductible for the employer and tax-deferred for the employee. This can provide some tax benefits for both parties.

It’s important for employers to carefully consider the pros and cons of both types of plans before deciding which one is best for their business. Employers may also want to seek the advice of a financial or legal professional to help them make an informed decision.

What is a DB and DC plan

How do I decide which plan is best for me?

Deciding between a defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan requires carefully considering your circumstances, preferences, and long-term financial goals. Here are some issues to consider when making this decision:

  1. Retirement Income Security: Defined Benefit (DB) plans offer a guaranteed income stream during retirement, usually based on your salary and years of service. This can provide security since the employer bears the investment risk. In contrast, Defined Contribution (DC) plans, such as 401(k) or individual retirement accounts (IRAs), depend on the contributions made and investment performance. Assess your risk tolerance and desire for a stable income stream versus potential growth.
  2. Employment Stability: DB plans are typically sponsored by employers, and your participation eligibility may depend on your tenure with the company. Anticipate changing jobs frequently or working in industries with less stable employment. A DC plan may be more suitable, as it is portable and can be rolled over to new employers or self-managed accounts.
  3. Flexibility and Control: DC plans offer more flexibility and control over investment choices. You can typically choose from various investment options and adjust your asset allocation based on your risk appetite and financial goals. This level of control may be appealing if you prefer a hands-on approach to managing your retirement savings.
  4. Contribution Limits and Tax Advantages: Both plans have contribution limits, but DC plans often have higher limits. Consider the maximum contribution you can make to each plan and assess which one allows you to save more for retirement. Additionally, evaluate the tax advantages associated with each plan. DC plans often offer tax-deferred growth, while DB plans may have tax implications when receiving the guaranteed income.
  5. Expected Retirement Needs: Estimate your retirement expenses and evaluate how well each plan aligns with your expected financial needs. Consider factors such as healthcare costs, lifestyle choices, and other sources of retirement income (e.g., Social Security). A DB plan may be advantageous if it provides a substantial portion of your retirement income, while a DC plan may allow more flexibility to match your unique needs.
  6. Overall Compensation Package: Look at the entire compensation package offered by your employer. If a DB plan is part of your benefits package, it could significantly contribute to your overall financial security. Assess the value of this benefit compared to other compensation components, such as salary, bonuses, and other retirement savings options.

It is recommended to discuss with a CPA who can assess your specific situation and provide personalized guidance based on your goals, risk tolerance, and financial circumstances. They can help you consider the pros and cons of each plan and make an informed decision that aligns with your long-term retirement objectives.

Business owners should have a retirement plan

There are several reasons why business owners should consider setting up a retirement plan for themselves and their employees:

  1. Attract and retain employees: A retirement plan can be a valuable employee benefit that can help attract and retain top talent. Offering a retirement plan can help a business stand out in a competitive job market and may make it easier to recruit and retain high-quality employees.
  2. Save for the future: A retirement plan can help business owners save for their own retirement, as well as the retirement of their employees. This can provide financial security and peace of mind, especially for those who may not have other sources of retirement income.
  3. Potential tax benefits: Business owners may be able to take tax deductions for contributions made to a retirement plan on behalf of themselves and their employees. This can help reduce the overall tax burden for the business.
  4. Employee satisfaction: Offering a retirement plan can help improve employee satisfaction and morale. Employees may feel more financially secure and may be more likely to stay with the company if they know they have a retirement plan in place.

There are many different types of retirement plans available, each with its own unique features and benefits. Business owners should carefully consider their options and choose a plan that best meets their needs and those of their employees.

Paul Sundin

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