Towards Replacing the Deﬁned Beneﬁt Plan: Assured Retirement Income Provided by a Liquid Investment Fund
Vol. 18, No. 3, 2020
Miguel Palacios, Hayne Leland and Sasha Karimi
Traditional corporate deﬁned beneﬁt (DB) plans provided retirees with constant retirement income, but DB plans have now all but disappeared. While deﬁned contribution (DC) plans now permit low-fee wealth accumulation, the conversion of wealth to predictable nominal or real income during retirement remains opaque and expensive. Complicated, illiquid, and high-fee products dominate the landscape. The goal of acquiring low-fee, predictable future income in retirement, has remained elusive. We describe a relatively simple, liquid, and low-cost series of funds that can address this challenge. The key features are: (1) A minimum assured annual income (real or nominal) for a signiﬁcant period of time. (2) Maximal exposure at all times to a higher-expected-return risky asset, while meeting the income assurance per share. (3) Liquidity that allows investors’ ﬂexibility to withdraw funds or change assured levels of income at any time, with minimal cost. (4) A simple but signiﬁcant “behavior nudge” that gives clarity on the future income levels: each share will provide a minimum income of $1 per year for 20 years with the possibility to be extended for lifetime. An investor will know future assured income simply by knowing the number of shares she/he owns. (5) Scalability through reliance on underlying securities backed by the deepest markets in the world. While a strategy to provide the features above is relatively straightforward for a single investor, a deeper challenge is to create a fund that provides these features to all investors, regardless of when shares are purchased. We consider the nature of asset management that achieves all the previous features in a single fund, and believe that it can be done while qualifying for QDIA status.