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Actuarial Accrued Liability

Computed differently under different funding methods, the actuarial accrued liability generally represents the portion of the present value of fully projected benefits attributable to service credit that has been earned (or accrued) as of the valuation date.

Actuarial Assumptions
Factors which actuaries use in estimating the cost of funding a defined benefit pension plan. Examples include: the rate of return on plan investments; mortality rates; and the rates at which plan participants are expected to leave the system because of retirement, disability, termination, etc.
Actuarial Cost Methods

An actuarial method which defines the allocation of pension costs (and contributions) over a member's working career. All standard actuarial cost methods are comprised of two components: normal cost and the actuarial accrued liability. An actuarial cost method determines the incidence of pension costs, not the ultimate cost of a pension plan; that cost is determined by the actual benefits paid less the actual investment income.

Actuarial Equivalent
A benefit having the same present value as the benefit it replaces. Also, the amount of annuity that can be provided at the same present value cost as a specified annuity of a different type or a specified annuity payable from a different age.
Actuarial Present Value
The value of an amount or series of amounts payable or receivable at various times, determined as of a given date by the application of a particular set of Actuarial Assumptions (i.e. interest rate, rate of salary increases, mortality, etc.)
Actuarial Valuation Report (AVR)

Actuarial valuations are technical reports providing full disclosure of the financial and funding status of public retirement systems administered by the Department of Retirement Systems.  Valuations for odd-numbered years are also used to set contribution rates for the ensuing biennium.  For those valuations, the Pension Funding Council oversees an actuarial audit of the results by an independent actuary.

Actuarially Reduced
The method of adjusting a benefit received at an early date so that the expected total cost to the retirement system is equivalent to the cost if the benefit did not begin until later.
Age (Retirement)
Normal retirement dependent upon attainment of a specified age.
Paying off an interest bearing liability by gradual reduction through a series of installments, as opposed to paying it off by one lump sum payment.

One who receives periodic payments from the retirement system. This term includes service and disability retirees, and their survivors.


A series of periodic payments, usually for life, payable monthly or at other specified intervals. The term is frequently used to describe the part of a retirement allowance derived from a participant's contributions. Compare with "pension".


The tendency of a person to recognize his/her health status in selecting the option under a retirement system which is most favorable to him or herself.


The person designated to receive benefits under an employee benefit plan in the event of the death of the person covered by the plan

Cash Balance Pension Plan
A hybrid defined benefit plan that has some of the features of a defined contribution plan. The most distinguishing feature of a cash balance pension plan is the use of a hypothetical account for each participant. The plan sponsor is responsible for investment decisions. Investment risk is borne by the plan sponsor, not the participant.

A lump sum payment of the member's contributions prior to retirement.

Contributory Plan

A plan to which participants, as well as the employer, contribute. Under certain contributory plans participants may be required to contribute as a condition of eligibility.

Credited Service

A period of employment which is recognized as service for purposes of determining eligibility to receive pension payments and/or determining the amount of such payments.

Death Benefit

A benefit payable by reason of a member's death. The benefit can be in the form of a lump sum, an annuity or a refund of the member's contributions.

Deferred Annuity

An annuity for which payments do not commence until a designated time in the future.

Deferred Compensation
Considerations for employment that are not payable until after the regular pay period. The most common form of deferred compensation are pension plans, but private employers may also offer bonuses, incentive clauses, etc. 
Defined Benefit Plan (DB)

A pension plan providing a definite benefit formula for calculating benefit amounts - such as a flat amount per year of service; a percentage of salary; or a percentage of salary, times years of service.

Defined Contribution Plan (DC)

A pension plan in which the contributions are made to an individual account for each employee. The retirement benefit is dependent upon the account balance at retirement. The balance depends upon amounts contributed during the employee's participation in the plan and the investment experience on those contributions.

Disability Retirement
A termination of employment involving the payment of a retirement allowance as a result of an accident or sickness occurring before a participant is eligible for normal retirement.
Early Retirement

A termination of employment involving the payment of a retirement allowance before a participant is eligible for normal retirement. The retirement allowance payable in the event of early retirement is often lower than the accrued portion of the normal retirement allowance.


Ownership of a company (as opposed to debt.) Examples include stocks, venture capital, and leveraged buy-outs. 

Employee Retirement Income Security Act acronym. This federal legislation sets minimum standards for pension design to increase the security of private sector employees' benefits.

(1) Indicates the relationship of trust and confidence where one person (the fiduciary) holds or controls property for the benefit of another person; (2) anyone who exercises power and control, management or disposition with regard to a fund's assets, or who has authority to do so or who has authority or responsibility in the plan's administration. Fiduciaries must discharge their duties solely in the interest of the participants and their beneficiaries, and are accountable for any actions which may be construed by the courts as breaching that trust.

Funding Ratio

The ratio of the value of benefits members have earned, to the value of the retirement systems' assets.  There are several acceptable methods of measuring assets and liabilities. Using the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) definition, the funded ratio of a system is the actuarial value of assets over its actuarial accrued liability.

General Accounting Standards Board (GASB)

This governmental agency sets the accounting standards for state and local government operations.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

A retirement account to which an individual can make annual tax-deductible contributions according to annual limits that are specified by the Internal Revenue Service.

Integrated Pension Plan

So as not to be duplicative of Social Security benefits, defined benefit plans often provide that part of the Social Security pension be subtracted from the member's annuity. Defined benefit or defined contribution plans can provide that lower pension accruals be applied to employee's earnings below a specified level, generally the Social Security taxable wage base. Employees earning more than the social security taxable wage base receive greater contributions to reflect that social security benefits are not provided on pay over that amount.

Joint and Survivor Annuity

A provision that enables a plan participant to take annuity payments with continuing payments of all or part of the benefits after his or her death going to a designated beneficiary. The survivor annuity will automatically be provided to a married participant if he or she does not choose against it. The annual pension benefits of the participant electing to have such a survivor annuity are generally reduced to provide for the survivor.

KEOGH (HR 10) Account
These plans allow a self-employed individual or small business owner to establish a qualified pension or profit sharing plan funded by pre-tax contributions, subject to certain restrictions and limitations as specified by the Internal Revenue Service.

The practice by each of two or more retirement systems (often in the same state or province) of obtaining in rotation better benefits for its members than those of the other systems.

Life Annuity

A monthly benefit payable as long as the annuitant is alive. There are no residual payments to survivors.

Life Expectancy

The average number of years a person of a given age might be expected to live.

Lump Sum Distribution

Payment within one taxable year of the entire balance payable to the participant from a qualified pension or employee annuity plan.

Money Purchase Plan

A type of pension plan where the employer agrees to make a fixed contribution each year for each eligible employee. The contribution is typically expressed as a percentage of the employee's pay and the contribution constitutes a non-discretionary commitment on the part of the employer. The contribution must be made each year, regardless of employer profits, and can only be varied by plan amendment. Although treated differently under federal tax law, money purchase plans are fundamentally defined contribution plans.

Multi-Employer Plan

A collectively bargained pension plan to which more than one non-related employer contributes.

Non-Contributory Plan
A retirement system in which no contributions are required of its members to aid in its financing.
Normal Cost
Computed differently under different funding methods, the normal cost generally represents the portion of the cost of projected benefits allocated to the current plan year.
Normal Retirement Age
The age, as established by a plan, when unreduced benefits can be received.
Offset Plan

A pension plan in which the employer's participation in Social Security is used as "credit" against members' benefits.


A method of recognizing the costs of a retirement system only as benefits are paid. Also known as the current disbursement cost method.


A series of periodic payments, usually for life, payable monthly or at other specified intervals. The term is frequently used to describe the part of a retirement allowance financed by employer contributions. Compare with "annuity".

Pension Benefit Obligation (PBO)

The portion of the Actuarial Present Value of future benefits attributable to service credit that has been earned to date (past service).

Pop-Up Option

A type of joint and survivor option. If the retiree's named beneficiary predeceases him or her, the amount of the retirement benefit increases ("pops up"), to the amount payable for a life-only payment option.


The ability of an employee who changes jobs to transfer his or her accrued benefits from the previous to the present employer's pension system.


To accumulate a reserve fund in advance of paying benefits. This is the opposite of "pay-as-you-go".

Present Value

The current worth of an amount or series of amounts payable in the future, after discounting each amount at an assumed rate of interest and adjusting for the probability of its payment or receipt.

Present Value of Fully Projected Benefits (PVFB)
Computed by projecting the total future benefit cash flow from the plan, using actuarial assumptions (i.e., probability of death, retirement, salary increases, etc.), and then discounting the cash flow to the valuation date using the valuation interest rate.
Projected Benefits

Pension benefit amounts which are expected to be paid in the future taking into account such items as the effect of advancement in age as well as past and anticipated future compensation and service credits.

Prudent Man Rule
A requirement imposed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) that plan fiduciaries carry out their duties with the care, skill prudence and diligence which a prudent man, acting in a like capacity and familiar with such matters, would use under conditions prevailing at the time.
Qualified Plan

An employee benefit plan approved by the Internal Revenue Service, meeting requirements set forth in IRS Code Section 401. Contributions to such plans are subject to favorable tax treatment

Replacement Ratio
A calculation of the degree to which retirement income supplants a pre-retirement member's "take home" pay, less working expenses. To determine this ratio, several factors must be taken into account: a retiree's pre-retirement earnings; changes in tax liabilities after retirement; changes in Social Security tax liability; the elimination of work-related expenses - including contributions to the retirement system; and savings.

A collection of assets set aside to meet future liabilities.

Roth IRA

A retirement account which an individual can make after-tax contributions according to annual limits that are specified by the IRS.

Service Retirement

Retirement dependent upon completion of a specified period of service. In some usages, the term has the same meaning as "normal retirement".

Supplemental Cost
A separate element of actuarial cost which results from future normal costs having a present value less than the present value of the total prospective benefits of the system. Such supplemental cost is generally the result of assuming actuarial costs accrued before the establishment of the retirement system. A supplemental cost may also arise after inception of the system because of benefit changes, changes in actuarial assumptions, actuarial losses, or failure to fund or otherwise recognize normal cost accruals or interest.
Thirteenth Check
An annual supplemental retirement payment arising from earnings on investments of the system in excess of those determined as needed.
Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UAAL)

The excess, if any, of the actuarial accrued liability over the actuarial value of assets. In other words, the present value of benefits earned to date that are not covered by plan assets.

Unfunded Liability or Unfunded PBO

The excess, if any, of the Pension Benefit Obligation over the Valuation Assets. This is the portion of all benefits earned to date that are not covered by plan assets.

Variable Annuity

A benefit whose payments vary from year to year depending upon the value of a portfolio of securities (usually common stocks).

The right of an employee to the benefits he or she has accrued, or some portion of them, even if employment under the plan is terminated. An employee who has met the vesting requirements of a pension plan is said to have a vested right. Voluntary and mandatory employee contributions are always fully vested.

The termination of employment prior to becoming eligible for any benefits. The term sometimes refers to subsequent termination of membership in a system by withdrawal of the employee's accumulated contributions from the system

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