Research Insights

Original Research

Asset Allocation and Fund Performance of Defined
Benefit Pension Funds in the United States

Alexander D. Beath, Chris Flynn, December 2018

December 2018

Of the $25.3 trillion of retirement assets in the United States at the end of 2016, approximately $5.5 trillion were held in public sector defined benefit (DB) funds and $2.9 trillion were held in corporate sector DB funds. Because millions of Americans rely on these pensions for their retirement security, the investment allocation decisions of these pension funds are of critical importance.

This study provides a comprehensive look at investment allocations and realized investment performance across aggregate asset classes using a unique and proprietary dataset covering over 200 public and private sector pensions over a 19-year period, with nearly $3.5 trillion in combined assets under management (AUM) at the end of 2016. One of the unique benefits of the dataset is that it provides the actual realized performance net of investment costs of the assets chosen by plan managers and trustees.

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