AS PART OF THEIR YEAR-END REPORTING PROCESS, US corporate and public defined benefit (DB) plan sponsors must set an assumption for the long-term expected return on assets, or ROA. To help sponsors make more informed decisions, we provide this annual update on ROA assumptions, including our latest trend analysis and long-term capital market assumptions.
Corporate sponsors use the ROA assumption to determine the pension expense recognized on their income statements. Under US accounting standards, the pension expense includes a credit (income) equal to the plan’s expected return on assets during the fiscal year.
The average ROA assumption reported by S&P 500 companies at year-end 2020 was 6.0%, about 30 basis points (bps) lower than in 2019 (see Figure 1 in PDF available below). This continues a downward trend. The average assumption has fallen 210 bps since 2006, when the introduction of mark-to-market balance sheet accounting for pension plans by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the passage of the Pension Protection Act by Congress first prompted many plan sponsors to reevaluate their investment…
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