Benefit Levels of Nonfederal Retirement Programs

GGD-85-30: Published: Feb 26, 1985. Publicly Released: Feb 26, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO prepared information on retirement programs in the nonfederal sector by estimating the levels of benefits at retirement that selected nonfederal programs provide to employees by age, years of service, and salary levels.

GAO found that benefit formulas for nonfederal pension plans vary considerably; therefore, it calculated the benefit amounts produced by the formulas as a percentage of final salary. GAO found little difference in the average pension plan benefits available to retirees at age 65 and age 62 when years of service and salary levels were equal. Pension plan benefits for employees retiring at age 55 with 30 years of service ranged from 72 to 84 percent of the benefits they would have received if they had retired at age 62 with the same years of service and salary levels. In state government pension plans, age 55 benefits were about 85 percent of the benefit amounts at age 62 with the same years of service and salary levels. In addition, GAO found that state government pension plans provided higher average benefits than private sector pension plans. Finally, GAO found that the capital accumulation plan component of a typical private sector retirement program can add substantial retirement benefits to participating employees. A 30-year career employee who contributes to the plan can supplement his pension and social security benefits by 16 percent or more of his final annual salary. Since states generally do not match employee contributions in their plans, GAO did not calculate any thrift plans for them. Therefore, the combined benefits for state employees were less than those received by private sector employees who participate in thrift plans.

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