Do I have a choice in how to invest my pension fund?
UPDATED: January 28, 2011
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How your pension fund is invested, and whether or not you have any control over pension investments, depends on the specific benefit plan you have. You'll have to speak with your employer or your benefits company in order to determine how your particular plan operates.
Pension funds are typically referred to as one of two types:
Defined benefit plans:
In this situation, your pension fund is operated by plan officials, who will make decisions on the investments. You will receive a specific benefit or amount of benefits based on rules and requirements set up by the plan administrator and those benefits will not be affected by investments or market fluctuations.
Defined contribution plans:
In this situation, it's possible for you to have some control over the investing that goes on in regard to your plan. How much will depend on the plan itself; there will be specific regulations written into your contract that state exactly how much control you have and how to exercise it. If you are given some degree of control over how your money is managed, it is possible that you may gain or lose based on which particular investment or investments you allocate the money to, and thus you may affect the value of your pension plan.
There is no requirement in place stating that an employer has to offer one type of plan or the other. In some cases, you may be allowed a choice. Keep in mind while making your decision what any implications may be, not just for your long-term pension savings, but for taxes as well. If you're unsure how to proceed with your pension investments, it's usually worth the money to speak to a financial lawyer or accountant; a few consultations are probably enough to ensure you understand what you're doing and can get started on the right foot with your retirement fund.