For the first time, defined contribution plan assets make up more than 30% of the nation's 1,000 largest retirement funds' coffers and more than a quarter of the top 200 plans' assets, according to Pensions & Investments' annual survey.
Overall, total holdings of the top 1,000 retirement plans rose 12.3% for the year ended Sept. 30, to $7.534 trillion. The top 200 plans' combined assets jumped 12.1% to $5.566 trillion.
There were no double-digit gains a year earlier: for the year ended Sept. 30, 2011, the top 1,000 grew 2.3% and the top 200, 1.7%. Employer contributions to the top 200 DB plans were up 3.9%, to $98.2 billion, and benefits paid rose 2.1% to $215 billion.
For the most recent survey, 30.4% of all assets in the top 1,000 plans and 25.4% of the top 200 were in defined contribution plans. The percentage growth in defined benefit assets among plans in the top 1,000, at 11.3% to $5.242 trillion, was almost four percentage points below that of DC plans, which rose 14.7% to $2.292 trillion.
Similarly, the percentage increase in DC assets among the top 200 plans, up 14.4% to $1.415 trillion, was higher than the 11.3% boost in top 200 DB assets, to $4.152 trillion.
While no one is predicting DC assets will overtake DB assets anytime soon, the growth in DC — both in total and as a percentage of total U.S. retirement fund assets — has been a consistent long-term trend. According to P&I survey data, total DC assets for the top 1,000 funds have grown 276% in the 20 years ended Sept. 30, and 230% for the top 200, compared with 159% for DB plans in the top 1000 and 163% for the top 200.