Cash Balance Pension Plan Example: A Comprehensive Overview

Pension plans are an essential component of retirement planning, providing financial stability for employees after they’ve retired. One type of pension plan that has gained popularity in recent years is the cash balance pension plan. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the specifics and provide a Cash Balance Pension Plan Example to help you better understand how they work. With a clearer understanding of this unique retirement planning option, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions for your future.

Cash Balance Pension Plan example

What is a Cash Balance Pension Plan?

A cash balance pension plan is a type of defined benefit plan that combines features of both traditional pension plans and defined contribution plans, such as 401(k)s. In a cash balance plan, each participant has an individual account, which grows annually based on two factors: a predetermined percentage of the employee’s salary (known as the “pay credit”) and an interest credit rate that is either fixed or variable.

One key difference between cash balance plans and traditional pension plans is the way benefits are expressed. In a cash balance plan, benefits are presented as an account balance, making it easier for employees to understand their accrued benefits. Upon retirement, employees can choose to receive their benefits as a lump sum or convert them into an annuity that provides monthly payments.

Cash Balance Pension Plan Example

To better understand how a cash balance pension plan works, let’s consider an example. Suppose an employer offers a cash balance plan with a pay credit of 5% and a fixed interest credit rate of 4% per year.

Step 1: Calculate the Pay Credit

Imagine an employee, John, who earns an annual salary of $60,000. Each year, John’s account is credited with 5% of his salary, which amounts to $3,000 (0.05 x $60,000).

Step 2: Calculate the Interest Credit

In addition to the pay credit, John’s account balance will grow annually based on the fixed interest credit rate of 4%. For example, if John’s account balance at the beginning of the year is $10,000, the interest credit for that year would be $400 (0.04 x $10,000).

Step 3: Calculate the Total Account Balance

John’s total account balance for the year would be the sum of his beginning balance, pay credit, and interest credit. In our example, this would amount to $10,000 (beginning balance) + $3,000 (pay credit) + $400 (interest credit) = $13,400.

This process repeats each year, with John’s account balance growing based on both the pay credits and interest credits. Over time, this balance will accumulate, providing John with a substantial retirement benefit.

Advantages of Cash Balance Pension Plans

Cash balance pension plans offer several advantages for both employers and employees:

  1. Portability: Cash balance plans are more portable than traditional pension plans because employees can take their account balance with them if they change jobs.
  2. Predictable Costs: Employers can more easily predict the costs associated with a cash balance plan, making it easier to manage their retirement benefit liabilities.
  3. Flexibility: Employees have the option to take their retirement benefits as a lump sum or an annuity, providing them with greater flexibility in managing their retirement income.
  4. Easier to Understand: Cash balance plans present benefits as an account balance, making it simpler for employees to understand the value of their retirement benefits.


Cash balance pension plans offer a unique alternative to traditional pension plans, combining the benefits of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. By understanding how these plans work and the advantages they offer, employees and employers can make informed decisions about their retirement planning options.

As our cash balance pension plan example demonstrates, this type of plan can provide employees with a significant retirement benefit that grows over time through both pay credits and interest credits. In addition, cash balance plans offer increased portability, predictable costs for employers, and flexibility for employees, making them an attractive choice for many.

If you’re considering implementing a cash balance pension plan for your business or evaluating your retirement planning options as an employee, it’s essential to carefully consider the advantages and potential drawbacks of this approach.

Consulting with a financial advisor or retirement planning professional can help you determine whether a cash balance plan is the right fit for your needs and financial goals. By staying informed and proactive in your retirement planning, you can ensure a secure and comfortable future for yourself and your employees.