How would you do a simplified calculation of your compensation with an added pension.

E.G. Your pay is $50,000. Your employer will pay you roughly $0.33 for every dollar you earn after you retire. It doesn't seem right to me to just say 50,000*1.33 = $66,500

These numbers exclude inflation and any pay raise. I just want a simplified answer.

EDIT: I'm 23. The pension option I'm choosing is roughly 33% of what last 5 years average income with the option I plan to choose. (The number 33% is based off of what your pay the last 5 years is, if you're above a certain threshold given by the IRS for social security then you may receive a higher pension %.)

This will pay out until I die. I have other options as far as family is concerned but I think I will have those covered with what I'll save otherwise/what I save from the pension in retirement.

They are all "actuarially the same", but in my eyes they are not. This is because one option is a 10 year pension pay out with the full ~33%, and if I die then the amount goes to my beneficiary, but if I don't then the pension payouts are done. There are other options than the two stated as well, but this is for an example. I plan to take the payout for the remainder for my life, which gives the highest percentage return. I'm young and plan to live for quite a while after retirement.

My pension payout is not determined by how the investments do within the fund. It is calculated based on years of service within the company and your pay, your monthly payments are determined by a payment multiplier. I'm not very worried about the Pension Plan collapsing. My company is one of the largest and most respect companies in the U.S. and they contributed a significant (billions) back into their pension plan during the financial crisis, without taking away from benefits. They have a significant "nest egg" they build up for this purpose, as well as having insurnace on their pension plans in case that nest egg collapses. If worse comes to worse, then I assume they will give me a prorated NPV payout, which I will invest full over the course of years in a 401(k) and IRA, aside from what I will have already contributed to these two investment vehicles.

  • Whats Is the accrual rate 1/30/ 1/40 or 1/60 I cant believe that you can get 33% of the after only 5 years service
    – Pepone
    Mar 25, 2016 at 17:57
  • You're right that's why I said max. Don't worry about the accrual rate. I'm asking about a career lifetime.
    – DukeLuke
    Mar 25, 2016 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


If you make $50,000/yr now the company will pay you $50,000 * 0.33 = $16,500/yr after you retire. You don't add them together. Your pay is what you get while working, your pension comes after you retire.

  • 2
    I think the question is how to value the pension as compensation. So if he has two job offers, one for $50K/year + pension, and one for $55K/year with no pension, how do you calculate the value of the pension? Mar 24, 2016 at 13:49
  • 1
    You need an actuary to calculate the value of the pension. Depends on how long he expects to live and the provisions stipulated in the pension agreement.
    – Chris
    Mar 24, 2016 at 16:03
  • Updated my question.
    – DukeLuke
    Mar 24, 2016 at 18:01

Some details are lacking here that might affect things. In particular, is this a straight pension (where they literally pay you a set amount), or do they contribute this amount to a pension fund, invest it, and pay you from the investment earnings? And in either option, does how long you survive affect your earnings from the pension?

At the simplest, though, I think you should consider how much you would need to save for your retirement if you didn't have the pension. Estimate how much you'd put away and then invest in order to end up with roughly the same amount per year in the future. If the pension is a direct rate (so $16,500/yr), and let's say you expect to live to 75 (so 10 years of retirement if it pays out at 65), then work out how much you'd have to save now in order to earn that $16,500*10=$165,000 in retirement income.

Let's say you compare that to the $55000 job as explained in Phil's comment. So you put away $5000 per year (the difference between the two jobs). If you're going to earn 5% annually on that $5000, a reasonably conservative figure, then you'll end up with that $5000 being worth around $13000 in 20 years (let's say you're 45 now). If the pension is also annual (so each year you work = one year at $16500), then that's a bit less, especially as you get a lesser multiplier for later years. The sum for 10 years (from age 45 to age 54) is almost $110,000, so you're earning about 30% less if you value dollar to dollar equally.

I'd consider that probably about equivalent to the pension personally (as it's slightly less money, but you have a lot more control and protection from the company's pension fund going bankrupt or whatnot), but it's up to how you see things. You'd have to earn almost $58,000 (and put away $8,000) in this scenario to come out ahead on a dollar to dollar basis.

Really, your age is the biggest factor when evaluating pensions. If you're 25, you have 40 years to go, and a lot of time to earn more. In that case, that $5000 is worth $35000 in 40 years - far more than it is if you've only got 20 years to grow, right? Also, you have far more concern about the company's or government's stability over that length of time.

On the other hand, if you're 55, a pension is appealing. You've only got 10 years for your investments to grow, and you're close enough that the risks of corporate bankruptcy or governmental instability is less significant.

Given the additional details, I think the above still largely applies - but I'll add a bit.

Since you're 23, first off, even a small salary difference will help you a lot more than that pension for the same salary. A $5000 difference for year 1 will be worth almost $40,000 when you're 65. A $2500 salary difference is almost $20,000 by 65. You'd have to be looking at more like a $2,000 difference to consider it equal - at the same salary.

Now, of course you will be getting 33% of your last five years with the company salary. On the one hand, that means you'll be getting more presumably - but it also ties you down to the company. That's more significant than you'd probably think.

One of the main ways a worker gets a salary increase is by switching companies. It's very common after the first five or so years (where you get decent raises, usually) to have fairly stagnant pay relative to inflation, even for exceptional workers - unless you're C-level, anyway. Particularly if you're not moving into management proper, you'll need to change companies periodically to keep your salary rising as high as it's possible to.

Pensions exist largely to discourage that movement. Since you'll gain 3% or so per year anyway, let's say you start at $75000 5 years from now, and increase at 3% per year after that. Your salary at retirement will be somewhere in the $200k range. You might not actually get that due to caps, and remember we're only keeping a bit ahead or even with inflation here so it's not really that much more than $75k in present dollars, but the idea is there: you'll earn a lot more in 30-40 years than you do now, meaning your pension will be a lot higher.

But, if you leave after 10 years, you'll only be around $85k. That makes that pension worth far less, right? Hence the disincentive to move. You also probably have a vesting schedule, which may require 5 to 10 or even more years' service before you earn that full 33%. So who knows what you're actually going to get from this pension. Add to that - you don't have any idea if you'll fit well in the culture.

That said - it could well be that you get a quite decent amount of money out of this. Certainly it's worth something, even if you don't stay all that long. You should take this over an equivalent job with the same salary and same other benefits, because it's worth something. It's very hard to impossible to quantify all of this, because there are too many variables. It's simply too hard to figure out what your salary will be in 40 years if you stay there vs. if you move to another company.

My recommendation would be to assume the pension is on this year's income level, and thus act as if it's worth $16k/year for life (which is around 10 years on average). Then work backwards to the value of any particular salary differential, and that's your value. That makes it worth about 4.5% of your salary now (using A=P*(1+r)^t, solving for P where A=33% and r=5% annual growth). That's what I'd value it at.

  • Updated my question.
    – DukeLuke
    Mar 24, 2016 at 18:01
  • Updated. I would stress the difficulty of quantifying this, probably more than I do above. It's almost impossible to quantify perfectly - so take all that with a large grain of salt.
    – Joe
    Mar 24, 2016 at 19:38
  • Right. I would and am, I'm just looking for a simplistic way of thinking about this. I'm not a self-proclaimed actuary and I'm not looking to throw a number around either
    – DukeLuke
    Mar 24, 2016 at 19:40
  • I'm confused as to why you used the formula to calculate the 4.5%? Also, I can retire with a full pension benefit at age 53 if I stay. I'm working at this organization now and thoroughly enjoy it. It's very easy to move job positions within the organization if you're a hard worker, which I am. It's also pretty realistic to get into management, and have been told on numerous occasions that I would be suitable for it in the years to come.
    – DukeLuke
    Mar 24, 2016 at 19:54
  • It's also important to note that I'm not taking the risk in this situation - the organization is. I'm also contributing to a 401(k), and within a year or two will be in a Roth IRA, where I will be taking risks.
    – DukeLuke
    Mar 24, 2016 at 19:55

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