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In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment.[1] It is a tax deferred savings vehicle that allows for the tax-free accumulation of a fund for later use as a retirement income. Pensions should not be confused with severance packages; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.

The terms retirement plan or superannuation refer to a pension granted upon retirement.[2] Retirement plans may be set up by employers, insurance companies, the government or other institutions such as employer associations or trade unions. Called retirement plans in the USA, they are more commonly known as pension schemes in the UK and Ireland and superannuation plans in Australia and Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Retirement pensions are typically in the form of a guaranteed life annuity, thus insuring against the risk of longevity.

A pension created by an employer for the benefit of an employee is commonly referred to as an occupational or employer pension. Labor unions, the government, or other organizations may also fund pensions. Occupational pensions are a form of deferred compensation, usually advantageous to employee and employer for tax reasons. Many pensions also contain an additional insurance aspect, since they often will pay benefits to survivors or disabled beneficiaries. Other vehicles (certain lottery payouts, for example, or an annuity) may provide a similar stream of payments.

The common use of the term pension is to describe the payments a person receives upon retirement, usually under pre-determined legal and/or contractual terms. A recipient of a retirement pension is known as a pensioner or retiree.


Types of pensions


Employment-based pensions (retirement plans)

A retirement plan is an arrangement to provide people with an income during retirement when they are no longer earning a steady income from employment. Often retirement plans require both the employer and employee to contribute money to a fund during their employment in order to receive defined benefits upon retirement. Funding can be provided in other ways, such as from labor unions, government agencies, or self-funded schemes. Pension plans are therefore a form of "deferred compensation". A SSAS is a type of employment-based Pension in the UK.

Social and state pensions

Many countries have created funds for their citizens and residents to provide income when they retire (or in some cases become disabled). Typically this requires payments throughout the citizen's working life in order to qualify for benefits later on. A basic state pension is a "contribution based" benefit, and depends on an individual's National Insurance (NI) contribution history.

For examples, see National Insurance in the UK, or Social Security in the USA.

Disability pensions

Some pension plans will provide for members in the event they suffer a disability. This may take the form of early entry into a retirement plan for a disabled member below the normal retirement age.


Retirement plans may be classified as defined benefit or defined contribution according to how the benefits are determined [3]. A defined benefit plan guarantees a certain payout at retirement, according to a fixed formula which usually depends on the member's salary and the number of years' membership in the plan. A defined contribution plan will provide a payout at retirement that is dependent upon the amount of money contributed and the performance of the investment vehicles utilized.

Some types of retirement plans, such as cash balance plans, combine features of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. They are often referred to as hybrid plans. Such plan designs have become increasingly popular in the US since the 1990s. Examples include Cash Balance and Pension Equity plans.

Defined benefit plans

A traditional defined benefit (DB) plan is a plan in which the benefit on retirement is determined by a set formula, rather than depending on investment returns. In the US, 26 U.S.C. § 414(j) specifies a defined benefit plan to be any pension plan that is not a defined contribution plan (see below) where a defined contribution plan is any plan with individual accounts. A traditional pension plan that defines a benefit for an employee upon that employee's retirement is a defined benefit plan.

Traditionally, retirement plans have been administered by institutions which exist specifically for that purpose, by large businesses, or, for government workers, by the government itself. A traditional form of defined benefit plan is the final salary plan, under which the pension paid is equal to the number of years worked, multiplied by the member's salary at retirement, multiplied by a factor known as the accrual rate. The final accrued amount is available as a monthly pension or a lump sum, but usually monthly.

The benefit in a defined benefit pension plan is determined by a formula that can incorporate the employee's pay, years of employment, age at retirement, and other factors. A simple example is a Dollars Times Service plan design that provides a certain amount per month based on the time an employee works for a company. For example, a plan offering $100 a month per year of service would provide $3,000 per month to a retiree with 30 years of service. While this type of plan is popular among unionized workers, Final Average Pay (FAP) remains the most common type of defined benefit plan offered in the United States. In FAP plans, the average salary over the final years of an employee's career determines the benefit amount.

Averaging salary over a number of years means that the calculation is averaging different dollars. For example, if salary is averaged over five years, and retirement is in 2009, then salary in 2004 in 2004 dollars is averaged with salary in 2005 dollars, etc, with 2004 dollars being worth more than the dollars of succeeding years. The pension is then paid in first year of retirement dollars, in this example 2009 dollars, with the lowest value of any dollars in the calculation. Thus inflation in the salary averaging years has a considerable impact on purchasing power and cost, both being reduced equally by inflation.

This effect of inflation can be eliminated by converting salaries in the averaging years to first year of retirement dollars, and then averaging.

In the United Kingdom, benefits are typically indexed for inflation (known as Retail Prices Index (RPI)) as required by law for registered pension plans[4]. Inflation during an employee's retirement affects the purchasing power of the pension; the higher the inflation rate, the lower the purchasing power of a fixed annual pension. This effect can be mitigated by providing annual increases to the pension at the rate of inflation (usually capped, for instance at 5% in any given year). This method is advantageous for the employee since it stabilizes the purchasing power of pensions to some extent.

If the pension plan allows for early retirement, payments are often reduced to recognize that the retirees will receive the payouts for longer periods of time. In the US, (under the ERISA rules), any reduction factor less than or equal to the actuarial early retirement reduction factor is acceptable.[5]

Many DB plans include early retirement provisions to encourage employees to retire early, before the attainment of normal retirement age (usually age 65). Companies would rather hire younger employees at lower wages. Some of those provisions come in the form of additional temporary or supplemental benefits, which are payable to a certain age, usually before attaining normal retirement age.[6]


Defined benefit plans may be either funded or unfunded.

In an unfunded defined benefit pension, no assets are set aside and the benefits are paid for by the employer or other pension sponsor as and when they are paid. Pension arrangements provided by the state in most countries in the world are unfunded, with benefits paid directly from current workers' contributions and taxes. This method of financing is known as Pay-as-you-go (PAYGO or PAYG)[7]. The social security system in the USA and most European countries are unfunded, having benefits paid directly out of current taxes and social security contributions. In some countries, such as Germany, Austria and Sweden, company run retirement plans are often unfunded.

In a funded plan, contributions from the employer, and sometimes also from plan members, are invested in a fund towards meeting the benefits. The future returns on the investments, and the future benefits to be paid, are not known in advance, so there is no guarantee that a given level of contributions will be enough to meet the benefits. Typically, the contributions to be paid are regularly reviewed in a valuation of the plan's assets and liabilities, carried out by an actuary to ensure that the pension fund will meet future payment obligations. This means that in a defined benefit pension, investment risk and investment rewards are typically assumed by the sponsor/employer and not by the individual. If a plan is not well-funded, the plan sponsor may not have the financial resources to continue funding the plan. In many countries, such as the USA, the UK and Australia, most private defined benefit plans are funded, because governments there provide tax incentives to funded plans (in Australia they are mandatory). In the United States, private employers must pay an insurance-type premium to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a government agency whose role is to encourage the continuation and maintenance of voluntary private pension plans and provide timely and uninterrupted payment of pension benefits.


Traditional defined benefit plan designs (because of their typically flat accrual rate and the decreasing time for interest discounting as people get closer to retirement age) tend to exhibit a J-shaped accrual pattern of benefits, where the present value of benefits grows quite slowly early in an employee's career and accelerates significantly in mid-career: in other words it costs more to fund the pension for older employees than for younger ones (an "age bias"). Defined benefit pensions tend to be less portable than defined contribution plans, even if the plan allows a lump sum cash benefit at termination. Most plans, however, pay their benefits as an annuity, so retirees do not bear the risk of low investment returns on contributions or of outliving their retirement income. The open-ended nature of these risks to the employer is the reason given by many employers for switching from defined benefit to defined contribution plans over recent years. The risks to the employer can sometimes be mitigated by discretionary elements in the benefit structure, for instance in the rate of increase granted on accrued pensions, both before and after retirement.

The age bias, reduced portability and open ended risk make defined benefit plans better suited to large employers with less mobile workforces, such as the public sector (which has open-ended support from taxpayers).

Defined benefit plans are sometimes criticized as being paternalistic as they enable employers or plan trustees to make decisions about the type of benefits and family structures and lifestyles of their employees. However they are typically more valuable than defined contribution plans in most circumstances and for most employees (mainly because the employer tends to pay higher contributions than under defined contribution plans), so such criticism is rarely harsh.

The "cost" of a defined benefit plan is not easily calculated, and requires an actuary or actuarial software. However, even with the best of tools, the cost of a defined benefit plan will always be an estimate based on economic and financial assumptions. These assumptions include the average retirement age and lifespan of the employees, the returns to be earned by the pension plan's investments and any additional taxes or levies, such as those required by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in the U.S. So, for this arrangement, the benefit is relatively secure but the contribution is uncertain even when estimated by a professional.


Many countries offer state-sponsored retirement benefits, beyond those provided by employers, which are funded by payroll or other taxes. The United States Social Security system is similar to a defined benefit pension arrangement, albeit one that is constructed differently than a pension offered by a private employer.

Individuals that have worked in the UK and have paid certain levels of national insurance deductions can expect an income from the state pension scheme after their normal retirement. The state pension is currently divided into two parts: the basic state pension, State Second [tier] Pension scheme called S2P. Individuals will qualify for the basic state pension if they have completed sufficient years contribution to their national insurance record. The S2P pension scheme is earnings related and depends on earnings in each year as to how much an individual can expect to receive. It is possible for an individual to forgo the S2P payment from the state, in lieu of a payment made to an appropriate pension scheme of their choice, during their working life. For more details see UK pension provision.

Defined contribution plans

In a defined contribution plan, contributions are paid into an individual account for each member. The contributions are invested, for example in the stock market, and the returns on the investment (which may be positive or negative) are credited to the individual's account. On retirement, the member's account is used to provide retirement benefits, sometimes through the purchase of an annuity which then provides a regular income. Defined contribution plans have become widespread all over the world in recent years, and are now the dominant form of plan in the private sector in many countries. For example, the number of defined benefit plans in the US has been steadily declining, as more and more employers see pension contributions as a large expense avoidable by disbanding the defined benefit plan and instead offering a defined contribution plan.

Money contributed can either be from employee salary deferral or from employer contributions. The portability of defined contribution pensions is legally no different from the portability of defined benefit plans. However, because of the cost of administration and ease of determining the plan sponsor's liability for defined contribution plans (you don't need to pay an actuary to calculate the lump sum equivalent that you do for defined benefit plans) in practice, defined contribution plans have become generally portable.

In a defined contribution plan, investment risk and investment rewards are assumed by each individual/employee/retiree and not by the sponsor/employer. In addition, participants do not necessarily purchase annuities with their savings upon retirement, and bear the risk of outliving their assets. (In the United Kingdom, for instance, it is a legal requirement to use the bulk of the fund to purchase an annuity.)

The "cost" of a defined contribution plan is readily calculated, but the benefit from a defined contribution plan depends upon the account balance at the time an employee is looking to use the assets. So, for this arrangement, the contribution is known but the benefit is unknown (until calculated).

Despite the fact that the participant in a defined contribution plan typically has control over investment decisions, the plan sponsor retains a significant degree of fiduciary responsibility over investment of plan assets, including the selection of investment options and administrative providers.


In the United States, the legal definition of a defined contribution plan is a plan providing for an individual account for each participant, and for benefits based solely on the amount contributed to the account, plus or minus income, gains, expenses and losses allocated to the account (see 26 U.S.C. § 414(i)). Examples of defined contribution plans in the United States include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) plans. In such plans, the employee is responsible, to one degree or another, for selecting the types of investments toward which the funds in the retirement plan are allocated. This may range from choosing one of a small number of pre-determined mutual funds to selecting individual stocks or other securities. Most self-directed retirement plans are characterized by certain tax advantages, and some provide for a portion of the employee's contributions to be matched by the employer. In exchange, the funds in such plans may not be withdrawn by the investor prior to reaching a certain age—typically the year the employee reaches 59.5 years old-- (with a small number of exceptions) without incurring a substantial penalty.

Defined contribution plans are subject to IRS limits on how much can be contributed, known as the section 415 limit. In 2006, the total deferral amount, including employee contribution plus employer contribution, was limited to $44,000 ($46,000 in 2008) or 100% of compensation, whichever is less. The employee-only limit in 2009 is $16,500 with a $5,500 catch-up. These numbers continue to be increased each year and are indexed to compensate for the effects of inflation.

Hybrid and cash balance plans

Hybrid plan designs combine the features of defined benefit and defined contribution plan designs.

A cash balance plan is a defined benefit plan made by the employer, with the help (some critics say the connivance) of consulting actuaries (like Kwasha Lipton, whom it is said created the cash balance plan) to appear as if they were defined contribution plans. They have notional balances in hypothetical accounts where, typically, each year the plan administrator will contribute an amount equal to a certain percentage of each participant's salary; a second contribution, called interest credit, is made as well. These are not actual contributions and further discussion is beyond the scope of this entry suffice it to say that there is currently much controversy. In general, they are usually treated as defined benefit plans for tax, accounting and regulatory purposes. As with defined benefit plans, investment risk in hybrid designs is largely borne by the plan sponsor. As with defined contribution designs, plan benefits are expressed in the terms of a notional account balance, and are usually paid as cash balances upon termination of employment. These features make them more portable than traditional defined benefit plans and perhaps more attractive to a more highly mobile workforce.

Target Benefit plans are defined contribution plans made to match (or look like) defined benefit plans. This would only work if all actuarial assumptions are actually realized.

Contrasting types of retirement plans

Advocates of defined contribution plans point out that each employee has the ability to tailor the investment portfolio to his or her individual needs and financial situation, including the choice of how much to contribute, if anything at all. However, others state that these apparent advantages could also hinder some workers who might not possess the financial savvy to choose the correct investment vehicles or have the discipline to voluntarily contribute money to retirement accounts. This debate parallels the discussion currently going on in the U.S., where many Republican leaders favor transforming the Social Security system, at least in part, to a self-directed investment plan.


There are various ways in which a pension may be financed.

Defined contribution pensions, by definition, are funded, as the "guarantee" made to employees is that specified (defined) contributions will be made during an individual's working life.


United States

Public pensions got their start with various 'promises', informal and legislated, made to veterans of the Revolutionary War and, more extensively, the Civil War. They were expanded greatly, and began to be offered by a number of state and local governments during the early Progressive Era in the late nineteenth century.[citation needed]

Federal civilian pensions were offered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), formed in 1920. CSRS provided retirement, disability and survivor benefits for most civilian employees in the US Federal government, until the creation of a new Federal agency, the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), in 1987.

Pension plans became popular in the United States during World War II, when wage freezes prohibited outright increases in workers' pay. The defined benefit plan had been the most popular and common type of retirement plan in the United States through the 1980s; since that time, defined contribution plans have become the more common type of retirement plan in the United States and many other western countries.

Current challenges

A growing challenge for many nations is population aging. As birth rates drop and life expectancy increases an ever-larger portion of the population is elderly. This leaves fewer workers for each retired person. In almost all developed countries this means that government and public sector pensions could collapse their economies unless pension systems are reformed or taxes are increased. One method of reforming the pension system is to increase the retirement age. Two exceptions are Australia and Canada, where the pension system is forecast to be solvent for the foreseeable future. In Canada, for instance, the annual payments were increased by some 70% in 1998 to achieve this. These two nations also have an advantage from their relative openness to immigration. However, their populations are not growing as fast as the U.S., which supplements a high immigration rate with one of the highest birthrates among Western countries. Thus, the population in the U.S. is not aging to the extent as those in Europe, Australia, or Canada.

Another growing challenge is the recent trend of businesses in the United States purposely under-funding their pension schemes in order to push the costs onto the federal government. Bradley Belt, former executive director of the PBGC (the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that insures private-sector defined-benefit pension plans in the event of bankruptcy), testified before a congressional hearing in October 2004, “I am particularly concerned with the temptation, and indeed, growing tendency, to use the pension insurance fund as a means to obtain an interest-free and risk-free loan to enable companies to restructure. Unfortunately, the current calculation appears to be that shifting pension liabilities onto other premium payers or potentially taxpayers is the path of least resistance rather than a last resort.”

Challenges have further been increased by the credit crunch. Total funding of US pension plans fell by $303bn in 2008, going from a $86bn surplus at the end of 2007 to a $217bn deficit at the end of 2008.[8]

Pension systems in various countries

Market structure

The market for pension fund investments is still centred around Anglo-Saxon economies. Japan and the EU are conspicuous by absence. As of 2005 the U.S. was the largest market for pension fund investments followed by the UK.

Pension reforms have gained pace worldwide in recent years and funded arrangements are likely to play an increasingly important role in delivering retirement income security and also affect securities markets in future years.

See also


  1. ^ Princeton WordNet,, viewed 24 December, 2008
  2. ^ Princeton WordNet,, viewed 24 December, 2008
  3. ^ Private Pensions/Les pensions privées
  4. ^ The Pensions Advisory Service
  5. ^ Early Retirement Provisions in Defined Benefit Pension Plans. Ann C. Foster
  6. ^ Qualified Domestic Relations Order Handbook By Gary A. Shulman p.199-200 Published by: Aspen Publishers Online, 1999 ISBN 0735506655, ISBN 9780735506657
  7. ^ "Unfunded Pension Plans" OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms (retrieved 26 January 2009).
  8. ^ Largest U.S. pension plans' assets fall $217 billion short,, USA Today, citing a report by Watson Wyatt, 10 March 2009.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PENSION (Lat. pensio, a payment, from pendere, to weigh, to pay), a regular or periodical payment made by private employers, corporations or governments, in consideration either of past services or of the abolition of a post or office. Such a pension takes effect on retirement or when the period of service is over. The word is also used in the sense of the payment by members of a society in respect of dues.

United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom the majority of persons in the employ of the government are entitled to pensions on reaching a certain age and after having served the state for a certain minimum number of years. That such is the case, and moreover that it is usual to define such pensions as being given in consideration of past services, has led to the putting forward very generally the argument that pensions, whether given by a government or by private employers, are in the nature of deferred pay, and that holders of posts which carry pensions must therefore be rewarded by a remuneration less than the full market rate, by the difference of the value of the pension. This view is hardly correct, for the object of attaching a pension to a post is not merely to reward past services, but to attract continuity of service by the holder as well as to enable the employer to dispense with the services of the employe without hardship to him should age or infirmity render him less efficient. Dissatisfaction had been expressed from time to time by members of the English civil service with the system in force, viz. that the benefit of long service was confined only to survivors, and that no advantage accrued to the representatives of those who died in service. This was altered by an act of 1909. See Royal Commission on Superannuation in the Civil Service: Report and Evidence (1903). For the general pensions given by the state to the aged poor see OLD AGE Pensions.

Civil Service

In the English civil service the grant of pensions on superannuation is regulated by statute, the four principal acts being the Superannuation Acts of 1834, 1859, 1887 and 1909. To qualify for a pension it is necessary (I) that a civil servant should have been admitted to the service with a certificate from the civil service commissioners, or hold an office specially exempted from this requirement; (2) that he should give his whole time to the public service; (3) that he should draw the emoluments of his office from public funds exclusively; (4) that he should have served for not less than ten years; (5) that if under the age of 60 years he should be certified to be permanently incapable, from infirmity of body or mind, of discharging his official duties, or have been removed from his office on the ground of his inability to discharge his duties efficiently. On retirement on these conditions a civil servant is qualified for a pension calculated at one-eightieth of his retiring salary (or, in certain cases, of his average salary for the last three years) for each complete year of service, subject to a maximum of forty-eightieths. Civil servants retiring on the ground of ill health after less than ten years' service qualify for a gratuity of one month's pay for each year of service. Previous to the Superannuation Act of 1909 the pension was calculated at the rate of one-sixtieth of the retiring salary for each completed year of service, subject to a maximum of forty-sixtieths. This is still the rate for those who entered the service previous to the passing of the act (September 20, 1909) unless they availed themselves of the permission in the act to take advantage of its provisions, which were more than a compensation for the lowering of the rate. The act gave power to the treasury to grant by way of additional allowance to a civil servant who retired after not less than two years' service, in addition to his superannuation, a lump sum equal to one-thirtieth of his annual salary and emoluments multiplied by the number of completed years he has served, so however, that such lump sum does not exceed one and a half times his salary, while if he retires after attaining the age of sixty-five years, there must be deducted from that lump sum one-twentieth for every completed year that he has served after attaining that age. In the case of those who entered the service before the passing of the act, and take advantage of the act, this additional allowance is increased by one-half per cent. for each completed year served at the passing of the act. The act also provided that where a civil servant died after serving five years or upwards, a gratuity equal to his annual salary and emoluments might be granted to his legal personal representatives. Where the civil servant attains the age of sixty-five this gratuity is reduced by one-twentieth for each completed year beyond that age. On the other hand, where the civil servant has retired from the service and all the sums received by him at his death on account of superannuation are less than his annual salary his representatives may receive the difference as a gratuity. Provision was also made in the act for granting compensation on abolition of office, provided that such compensation does not exceed what the recipient might be granted or be entitled to if he retired on the ground of ill health. Pensions are also sometimes awarded in excess of the scale as a reward for special services, as compensation for injury in certain cases, or to holders of professional offices, appointed at an age exceeding that at which public service ordinarily begins. In the estimates for civil services for the year 1909-1910, there was provided for non-effective and charitable services (as pensions and gratuities in lieu of pensions are known as) the sum of £9,625,920; this, however, included an item of £8,750,000 for old-age pensions, leaving a sum of £875,920. There was charged on the Consolidated Fund, on account of pensions and compensation allowance for civil, judicial and other services, a sum of £142,767, while the following sums for civil pensions were provided in the estimates of the several departments: War Office, f 158,000; Admiralty, £369,800; Customs and Excise, £412,358; Inland Revenue, £116,096; Post Office, £649,000; Royal Irish Constabulary, £416,500; Dublin Metropolitan Police, £33,646, making a total of £2,298,167, or a gr03s total for civil pensions of £3,174,087. A return is published annually containing a complete list of the various pensions.

Perpetual or Hereditary Pensions. - Perpetual pensions were freely granted either to favourites or as a reward for political services from the time of Charles II. onwards. Such pensions were very frequently attached as "salaries" to places which were sinecures, or, just as often, posts which were really necessary were grossly overpaid, while the duties were discharged by a deputy at a small salary. Prior to the reign of Queen Anne such pensions and annuities were charged on the hereditary revenues of the sovereign and were held to be binding on the sovereign's successors (The Bankers' Case, 1691; State Trials, xiv. 3-43). By 1 Anne c. 7 it was provided that no portion of the hereditary revenues could be charged with pensions beyond the life of the reigning sovereign. This act did not affect the hereditary revenues of Ireland and Scotland, and many persons were quartered, as they had been before the act, on the Irish and Scottish revenues who could not be provided for in England - for example, the duke of St Albans, illegitimate son of Charles II., had an Irish pension of £800 a year; Catherine Sedley, mistress of James II., had an Irish pension of £5000 a year; the duchess of Kendall and the countess of Darlington, mistresses of George I., had pensions of the united annual value of £5000, while Madame de Walmoden, a mistress of George II., had a pension of £3000 (Lecky, History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century). These pensions had been granted in every conceivable form - during the pleasure of the Crown, for the life of the sovereign, for terms of years, for the life of the grantee, and for several lives in being or in reversion (Erskine May, Constitutional History of England). On the accession of George III. and his surrender of the hereditary revenues in return for a fixed civil list, this civil list became the source from which the pensions were paid. The subsequent history of the civil list will be found under that heading (Civil. LIsT), but it may be here mentioned that the three pension lists of England, Scotland and Ireland were consolidated in 1830, and the civil pension list reduced to £75,000, the remainder of the pensions being charged on the Consolidated Fund.

In 1887, Charles Bradlaugh, M.P., protested strongly against the payment of perpetual pensions, and as a result a Committee of the House of Commons inquired into the subject (Report of Select Committee on Perpetual Pensions, 248, 1887). An appendix to the Report contains a detailed list of all hereditary pensions, payments and allowances in existence in 1881, with an explanation of the origin in each case and the ground of the original grant; there are also shown the pensions, &c., redeemed from time to time, and the terms upon which the redemption took place. The nature of some of these pensions may be gathered from the following examples: To the duke of Marlborough and his heirs in perpetuity, £4000 per annum; this annuity was redeemed in August 1884 for a sum of £107,780, by the creation of a ten years' annuity of £12,796, 17s. per annum. By an act of 1806 an annuity of £5000 per annum was conferred on Lord Nelson and his heirs in perpetuity. In 1793 an annuity of £2000 was conferred on Lord Rodney and his heirs. All these pensions were for services rendered, and although justifiable from that point of view, a preferable policy is pursued in the 10th century, by parliament voting a lump sum, as in the cases of Lord Kitchener in 1902 (£50,000) and Lord Cromer in 1907 £50,000). Charles II. granted the office of receiver-general and controller of the seals of the court of king's bench and common pleas to the duke of Grafton. This was purchased in 1825 from the duke for an annuity of £843, which in turn was commuted in 1883 for a sum of £22,714, its. 8d. To the same duke was given the office of the pipe or remembrancer of first-fruits and tenths of the clergy. This office was sold by the duke in 1765, and after passing through various hands was purchased by one R. Harrison in 1798. In 1835 on the loss of certain fees the holder was compensated by a perpetual pension of £62, 9s. 8d. The duke of Grafton also possessed an annuity of £6870 in respect of the commutation of the dues of butlerage and prisage. To the duke of St Albans was granted in 1684 the office of master of the hawks. The sums granted by the original patent were: master of hawks, salary, £39 1, Is. 5d.; four falconers at £50 per annum each, £200; provision of hawks, £600; provision of pigeons, hens and other meats, £182, 10s.; total, £1373, 11s. 5d. This amount was reduced by office fees and other deductions to £965, at which amount it stood, until commuted in 1891 for £18,335. To the duke of Richmond and his heirs was granted in 1676 a duty of one shilling per ton on all coals exported from the Tyne for consumption in England. This was redeemed in 1799 for an annuity of £19,000 (chargeable on the consolidated fund), which was afterwards redeemed for £ 6 33,333. The duke of Hamilton, as hereditary keeper of the palace, Holyrood House, received a perpetual pension of £45, 10s., and the descendants of the heritable usher of Scotland drew a salary of £242, 10s. The conclusions of the committee were that pensions, allowances and payments should not in future be granted in perpetuity, on the ground that such grants should be limited to the persons actually rendering the services, and that such rewards should be defrayed by the generation benefited; that offices with salaries and without duties, or with merely nominal duties, ought to be abolished; that all existing perpetual pensions and payments and all hereditary offices should be abolished: that where no service or merely nominal service is rendered by the holder of an hereditary office or the original grantee of a pension, the pension or payment should in no case continue beyond the life of the present holder and that in all cases the method of commutation ought to ensure a real and substantial saving to the nation (the existing rate, about 27 years' purchase, being considered by the committee to be too high). These recommendations of the committee were adopted by the government and outstanding hereditary pensions were gradually commuted, the only ones left outstanding being those to Lord Rodney (£2000) and to Earl Nelson (L5000), both chargeable on the consolidated fund.

Political Pensions.-By the Political Offices Pension Act 1869, pensions were instituted for those who had held political office. For the purposes of the act political offices were divided into three classes: (I) those with a yearly salary of not less than £5000; (2) those with a salary of less than £5000 and not less than £2000; (3) those with a salary of less than £2000 and more than £1000. For service in these offices there may be awarded pensions for life in the following scale: (1) a first class pension not exceeding £2000 a year, in respect of not less than four years' service or its equivalent, in an office of the first class; (2) a second class pension not exceeding £1200, in respect of service of not less than six years or its equivalent, in an office of the second class; (3) a third class pension not exceeding goo a year, in respect of service of not less than ten years in an office of the third class. The service need not be continuous, and the act makes provision for counting service in lower classes as a qualification for pension in a higher class. These pensions are limited in number to twelve, but a holder must not receive any other pension out of the public revenue, if so, he must inform the treasury and surrender it if it exceeds his political pension, or if under he must deduct the amount. He may, however, hold office while a pensioner, but the pension is not payable during the time he holds office. To obtain a political pension, the applicant must file a declaration stating the grounds upon which he claims it and that his income from other sources is not sufficient to maintain his station in life.

Civil List Pensions.-These are pensions granted by the sovereign from the civil list upon the recommendation of the first lord of the treasury. By I & 2 Vict. c. 2 they are to be granted to "such persons only as have just claims on the royal beneficence or who by their personal services to the Crown, or by the performance of duties to the public, or by their useful discoveries in science and attainments in literature and the arts, have merited the gracious consideration of their sovereign and the gratitude of their country." A sum of £1200 is allotted each year from the civil list, in addition to the pensions already in force. From a Return issued in 1908 the total of civil list pensions payable in that year amounted to £24,665.

Judicial, Municipal, &c.-There are certain offices of the executive whose pensions are regulated by particular acts of parliament. Judges of the Supreme Court, on completing fifteen years' service or becoming permanently incapacitated for duty, whatever their length of service, may be granted a pension equal to two-thirds of their salary (Judicature Act 1873). The lord chancellor of England however short a time he may have held office, receives a pension of £5000, but he usually continues to sit as a law lord in the House of Lords-so also does the lord chancellor of Ireland, who receives a pension of £3,692 6s. id. A considerable number of local authorities have obtained special parliamentary powers for the purpose of superannuating their officials and workmen who have reached the age of 60-65. Poor law officers receive superannuation allowances under the Poor Law Officers Superannuation Acts 1864-1897.

Ecclesiastical Pensions.-Bishops, deans, canons or incumbents who are incapacitated by age or infirmity from the discharge of their ecclesiastical duties may receive pensions which are a charge upon the revenues of the see or cure vacated.

Navy pensions were first instituted by William III. in 1693 and regularly established by an order in council of Queen Anne in 5700. Since then the rate of pensions has undergone various modifications and alterations; the full regulations concerning pensions to all ranks will be found in the quarterly Navy List, published by the authority of the Admiralty. In addition to the ordinary pensions there are also good-service pensions, Greenwich Hospital pension and pensions for wounds. An officer is entitled to a pension when he is retired at the age of 45, or if he retires between the ages of 40 and 45 at his own request, otherwise he receives only half pay. The amount of his pension depends upon his rank, length of service and age. The maximum retired pay of an admiral is £850 per annum, for which 30 years' service or its equivalent in half-pay time is necessary; he may, in addition, hold a good service pension of £300 per annum. The maximum retired pay of a vice-admiral, with 29 years' service is L725; of rear-admirals with 27 years' service £600 per annum. Pensions of captains who retire at the age of 55, commanders, who retire at 50, and lieutenants who retire at 45, range from £200 per annum for 17 years' service to £525 for 24 years' service. The pensions of other officers are calculated in the same way, according to age and length of service. The good-service pensions consist of ten pensions of £300 per annum for flag-officers, two of which may be held by vice-admirals and two by rear-admirals; twelve of £150 for captains; two of £200 a year and two of £150 a year for engineer officers; three of £100 a year for medical officers of the navy; six of £200 a year for general officers of the Royal Marines and two of £150 a year for colonels and lieut.- colonels of the same. Greenwich Hospital pensions range from £150 a year for flag officers to £25 a year for warrant officers. All seamen and marines who have completed twenty-two years' service are entitled to pensions ranging from iod. a day to a maximum of Is. 2d. a day, according to the number of good-conduct badges, together with the good-conduct medal, possessed. Petty officers, in addition to the rates of pension allowed them as seamen, are allowed for each year's service in the capacity of superior petty officer, 15s. 2d. a year, and in the capacity of inferior petty officer 7s. 7d. a year. Men who are discharged the service on account of injuries and wounds or disability attributable to the service are pensioned with sums varying from 6d. a day to 2s. a day. Pensions are also given to the widows of officers in certain circumstances and compassionate allowances made to the children of officers. In the Navy estimates for1908-1909the amount required for halfpay and retired-pay was £868,800, and for pensions, gratuities and compassionate allowances £1,334,600, a total of £2,203,400.

Army.-The system of pensions in the British Army is somewhat intricate, provision being made for dealing with almost every case separately. As a general rule officers can retire after eight years' service on a pension of £100 per annum for ten years, provided that they take commissions in either the Imperial Yeomanry or Special Reserve and attend the annual trainings during that period. The other pensions are as follows: 2nd lieutenants, lieutenants, captains and majors after 15 years' service (or; 12 years in the West India regiment), £120, if 45 years of age £200; majors, after 25 years'service, £ 200. Royal artillery or royal engineers if commissioned, after 21 years of age, £300, if 48 years of age, £300; lieutenant-colonels, after 3 years as such, with 15 years' service, £250, with 27 years' service, £300, with 30 years' service, £365, after term of employment as lieutenant-colonel commanding a unit, or staff appointment as lieutenantcolonel, or after 5 years as lieutenant-colonel cavalry and infantry, £4 20. Royal artillery, royal engineers and army service corps, £45 0; Colonels, after 5 years as colonel, cavalry and infantry, £420. Royal artillery, royal engineers and army service corps, £450, after completing the term of command of a regimental district or a regiment of foot-guards, or employed in any other capacity for three years, £450-£500 according to age; Brevet-colonels, with the substantive rank of lieutenant-colonel, receive, cavalry or infantry, £420; royal artillery, royal engineers and army service corps, £450. Major-generals retire at the age of 62 with a pension of £700; lieutenant-generals at 67 with £850; generals at 67 with £1000.

Officers whose first permanent commission bears date prior to the 1st of January, 1887, retire with a gratuity in lieu of pension.

Officers of the departmental corps retire either with pensions ranging from £1125 yearly to los. daily, or with gratuities ranging from £2500 to £1000.

Warrant officers with 5 years' service as such, and 20 years' total service, receive 3s. 6d. per diem if discharged from the service on account of disability, reduction of establishment or age. On discharge for any reasons (except misconduct or inefficiency) they receive from 3s. 6d. to 5s. per diem, according to length of service and corps. If they have less than 5 years service as warrant officers, but not less than 21 years' total service, they receive at least 3s. per diem; and if discharged at their own request after 18 years' total service, 2s. 7 2 d.

Additional pensions are given at the rate of 6d. per diem for gallant conduct, and 11d. to is. per diem for re-employed pensioners on completing their second term of employment, with 3d. per diem extra if promoted while so serving. Special pensions are also granted in exceptional cases.

For the purposes of pensions, non-commissioned officers are divided into four classes, corresponding roughly to quartermastersergeants, colour-sergeants, sergeants and corporals.


12 years'


9 years'


6 years'


3 years'


s. d.

s. d.

s. d.

s. d.


2 9

2 6

2 3

2 0


2 6

2 3

2 0

I 9


2 3

2 0

I 9

1 6


1 8

1 6

1 4

I 0

21 years'

20 years'

19 years'

18 years'

14 to 18 years'






1s. id.

1s. od.



8d. to sod.

For each complete year in excess of 21 years.

Classes I. to III.

id. per diem to 9d. per diem.

Classes IV. and V.

2d. per diem to 5d. per diem.

With not more than 21 years' total service, and with the following continuous service in one of the above classes, the rates of pensions (per diem) are: Privates (Class V.) receive the following pensions: For service in excess of 21 years, the following amounts are added to the pensions enumerated above: - A man promoted to higher rank within one year of his completing 21 years' service, receives, on his discharge in the higher rank, an extra 3d. per diem, provided that he has completed 25 years' service in all. An additional pension of 6d. per diem is awarded for gallant conduct, as in the case of warrant officers.

If partially capable of earning a livelihood

Per diem.

Class I. to III.

9, IV.

„ V.

Is to 3S.

9d to 2s

6d. to Is. 6d.

If totally incapable of earning a livelihood

Per diem.

Class I. to III.

„ IV.

„ V.

2s 6d to 35.6d.

2s od to 3s. od.

1s 6d to 2s 6d.

N.C.O.'s and men disabled through military service are granted the following pensions: - Pensions may also be granted to N.C.O.'s and men who are disabled by causes other than military service, according to circumstances.

United States. In the ordinary sense of the word, pensions in the United States are confined to federal judges and officers of the army and navy, but the United States "Pension Fund" is so singular a feature of the national budget, that it is desirable to give an account of the different classes of allowances which are granted. In the United States allowances for services in wars prior to the 4th of March 1861 are called "old war" pensions, and may be divided into three classes, viz.,(1) invalid pensions, based upon wounds or injuries received, or disease contracted in the course of duty, (2) "service" pensions, and (3) land bounties, both granted for service irrespective of injuries.

The first provision made by Congress for pensions was a resolution passed on the 26th of August 1776, promising invalid pensions to officers and men of the army or navy who lost a limb or were otherwise disabled in the War of Independence, at a rate equal to half of their monthly pay as officers or soldiers during life or continuance of the disability, those not totally disabled to receive an adequate monthly pension not to exceed half of their pay. Then followed various Acts of Congress enlarging the provisions for invalid pensions and extending them to those who had been in the war of 1812, and to the widows and children of those who died in the war or from wounds received in the war. The act of the 3rd of May 1846, provided for the prosecution of the war with Mexico and for pensioning those volunteers wounded or otherwise disabled in service. Other acts were subsequently passed making further provision for pension on account of service in the Mexican war. The first general law granting "service" pensions was not passed until the 18th of March 1818, thirty-five years after the termination of the War of Independence. Its beneficiaries were required to be in indigent circumstances and in need of assistance from their country. Two years later Congress became alarmed by reason of the large number of claims filed ! (about 8000), and enacted what was known as the "Alarm Act," requiring each applicant for pension and each pensioner on the rolls to furnish a schedule of his whole estate and income, clothing and bedding excepted. Many pensioners were dropped who were possessed of as much as $150 worth of property. Numerous acts were, however, passed from time to time liberalizing the law or dealing more generously with the survivors of the Revolution. Service pensions were not granted to widows of the soldiers of this war until 1836, and then only for a period of five years and on condition that the marriage of the soldier was prior to his last service, and that the soldier's service was not less than six months. In 1853, seventy years after the close of the war, the limitation as to the time of marriage was removed. The rolls in 1901 contained nine and in 1908 two pensions based upon service in the War of Independence. The last survivor was Daniel F. Bakeman, who died on the 5th of April 1869, aged 109 years and 6 months.

The first law granting service pensions on account of the war of 1812 was passed in 1871, fifty-six years after the close of the war. This act required sixty days' service. Widows were not pensionable unless the marriage to the soldier had taken place prior to the treaty of peace of 15th February 1815. On 9th March 1878, sixty-three years after the war, an act was passed reducing the requisite period of service to fourteen days and removing the limitations as to date of marriage. In 1908 the pension rolls contained the names of 471 widows of this war, the last male survivor having died in 1905, at the age of 105 years. Service pensions were provided for those who served in the Black Hawk war, Creek war, Cherokee disturbances and the Seminole war (1832 to 1842), on the 27th of July 1892, fifty years after the period embraced in the act; they were granted to those who had served for thirty days and were honourably discharged, and to their widows. In 1908 there were 1820 survivors and 3018 widows, pensioners of the Indian wars. Service pensions were granted to the survivors of the war with Mexico by an act passed on the 29th of January 1887, thirty-nine years after the Guadeloupe-Hildalgo treaty. The pensions were granted to those who were honourably discharged and to the widows, for service of sixty days, if sixty-two years of age, or disabled or dependent. This law was liberalized by the acts of the 5th of January 1893, 23rd of April 1900, 6th of February 1907, and 19th of April 1908, increasing the pension to $15 for those who have reached the age of seventy years, and to $20 for those seventy-five years and over. In 1908 the pension rolls contained the names of 2932 survivors and 6914 widows on account of service in the Mexican war. To give title to bounty land, service must have been for at least fourteen days or in a battle prior to 3rd March 1855; and if in the navy or regular army, must have been in some war in which the United States was engaged. Bounty land warrants are issued for 160 acres, and over 70,000,000 acres have been granted under the different Bounty Land Acts.

For services rendered in the Civil War (1861-65) in the army or navy of the United States, or in their various branches, the law provided two distinct systems of pensioning - (1) the general laws, granting pensions for wounds or injuries received, or disease contracted in service in the line of duty, the pensions ranging from $6 to $loo per month; and (2) the so-called Dependent Pension Act and amending acts, granting pensions for permanent disabilities regardless of the time and manner of their origin, provided they were not the result of vicious habits, the pensions ranging from $6 to $12 per month. What is known as the general law for disabilities incurred in service and in the course of duty was constituted in the act of the 14th of July 1862, as amended by the act of the 3rd of March 1873. Under its provisions the following classes of persons are entitled to benefit, viz. any officer of the army, navy or marine corps, or any enlisted man in the military or naval service of the United States, whether regularly mustered or not; any master or any pilot, engineer, sailor or other person not regularly mustered, serving upon any gunboat or war-vessel of the United States; any acting assistant or contract surgeon; any provost-marshal, deputy provost-marshal or enrolling officer; subject to the several conditions in each particular case prescribed in the law. This law also embraces in its provisions the following classes, each class being subject to certain specified conditions, viz. widows, children under sixteen years of age, dependent parents, and brothers and sisters. This act has been the subject of numerous amendments along more liberal lines. As an illustration a case may be cited where a soldier lost both hands in the service in the course of duty, and was discharged in 1862. He is entitled to a pension of $8 per month from the date of his discharge. Under subsequent acts he is entitled to $25 per month from 4th July 1864; $31.25 from 4th June 1872; $50 from 4th June 18 74; $72 from 17th June 1878, and $100 from 12th February 1889.

Under the general law a widow or dependent relative could not be pensioned unless the cause of the soldier's death originated in service in the line of duty; if it were so shown, a widow might be pensioned whether she were rich or poor. Upon the death or remarriage of the widow the minor children of the soldier under the age of sixteen years become entitled to pension. If the soldier died of causes due to his service, and left no widow or minor children, his other relatives become entitled, if dependent, in the following order, viz; first, the mother; secondly, the father; thirdly, orphan sisters and brothers under sixteen years of age, who shall be pensioned jointly. In 1908 the number of invalids pensioned under the general law was 142,044, and the number of widows and dependent relatives was 81,168.

The so-called Dependent Pension Act was based upon an Act of Congress approved 27th June 1890, which was amended on 9th May 1900. Properly speaking, it might be called "dependent" only as regards widows and parents. The main conditions as to the soldier or sailor were, ninety days' service, an honourable discharge, and a permanent disability from disease or otherwise, not the result of his own vicious habits, to such an extent as to render him unable to maintain himself by manual labour. The rates of pension under this act were $6, $8, $10 and $12 per month. Widows became entitled under this law if they married the soldier or sailor prior to 27th June 1890, provided they were without means of support other than their daily labour, and an actual net income not exceeding $250 per year, and had not remarried. Claims of children under sixteen years of age were governed by the same conditions as applied to claims of widows, except that their dependence was presumed, and need not be shown by evidence. If a minor child was insane, idiotic or otherwise physically or mentally helpless, the pension continued during the life of said child or during the period of disability. Further acts made more liberal provisions. That of the 6th of February 1907, granted pensions to persons who had served ninety days or more in the military or naval service in the civil war, or sixty days in the Mexican war, and were honourably discharged, no other conditions being attached. The rate of pension was fixed at $12 per month when sixty-two years of age, $15 per month when seventy years of age and $20 per month when seventy-five years of age. The act of April 1908, fixed the rate of pension for widows, minor children under the age of sixteen and helpless minors on the roll or afterwards to be placed on it at $12 per month, and granted pensions at the same rate to the widows of persons who served ninety days or more during the civil war, without regard to their pecuniary condition. In 1908 there were 140,600 invalids on the roll, and 4294 minor and helpless children. In the same year under the act of 1907 there were 338,341 dependants, while under the act of 1908, 188,445 widows were put on the roll. All women employed by competent authority as nurses during the Civil War for six months or more, who are unable to earn a support, are granted a pension of $12 per month by an act of the 5th of August 1892. In 1908 the pension rolls contained the names of 3110 pensioners under this act.

There were on the roll in 1908 on account of the Spanish war, 11,78611,786 invalids and 3722 dependants. The total amount paid in pensions in 1908 on account of that war and the insurrection in the Philippine Islands was $3,654,122. The grand total of pensioners on the roll for all wars was, in 1908, 951,687.

In addition to pensions, the United States government grants the following gratuities: First: If a soldier lost a limb in the service, or as a result of his service in line of duty, he is furnished with an artificial limb free of cost every three years, or commutation therefor, and transportation to and from a place where he shall select the artificial limb. Second: An honourably discharged soldier or sailor is given preference for appointment to places of trust and profit, and preference for retention in all civil service positions. Third: There are ten National Soldiers' Homes situated at convenient and healthy points in different parts of the country, where comfortable quarters, clothing, medical attendance, library and amusements of different kinds are provided free of all expense; government providing the soldiers free transportation to the home, continuing payments of pension while they are members of the home, and increasing the same as disabilities increase. Fourth: There are thirty homes maintained by the different states, which are similar in their purpose to the National Homes, the sum of $100 per year being paid by the general government for each inmate. Many of these state homes also provide for the wives and children of the inmates, so that they need not be separated while they are members of such home. Fifth: Schools are established .by the different states for the maintenance and education of soldiers' orphans until they attain the age of sixteen years.

From the close of the Civil War in 1865 to 1908, the government of the United States paid to its pensioners for that war the sum of $3,533,593, 02 5. The payments on account of all wars for the fiscal year ended on the 30th of June 1908 were $153,093,086. Over $17,000,000 has been paid to surgeons for making medical examinations of pensioners and applicants for pensions. The total disbursement for pensions from 1790 to 1908 amounted to $3,751,108,809. No other nation or government in all time has dealt so liberally with its defenders.

The money appropriated by Congress for the payment of pensions is disbursed by eighteen pension agents established in different parts of the country. Pensions are paid quarterly, and the agencies are divided into three classes, one of which pays on the 4th of every month.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also pension


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Pension f. (genitive Pension, plural Pensionen)

  1. (boarding house or public service retirement benefit) pension


Simple English

A pension is a steady income given to someone. If pensions are part of a system of social security, the recipient of the pension is usually retired or disabled. They either have worked a long time during their life, or they are physically unable to do so. A pension is usually paid until a certain date (or event) occurs. In the case of social security plans, pensions are usually linked to the life of the person who receives the pension.

Defined Benefit

Some pensions define the benefit to the worker based on salary basis, years worked, and a multiplier. An example might be 2@55 final 3, meaning that the annuity is the highest 3-year average salary times years worked times 2% (if age 55). A worker with 30 years service would receive 2*30 or 60% of their salary. Some systems allow a worker to receive more than 100% salary by various maneuvers to alter the final salary basis.

Defined Contribution

This system defines the contribution, without constraining or promising a certain benefit. For example, a company might contribute 10% of a worker's salary to a pension account of the worker's choice, with final benefit received linked to the performance of the investment chosen.


Many pension systems are underfunded and likely unsustainable based on independent financial analysis. Pension reform is a popular topic since about 2009, with pension debt seen as a contributing factor in the deficits at all levels of government.


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