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Pensions Part Two: The 5 Types of Pension Plans

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legal warning: The information here should not be understood legally as financial advice. If you believe anything on this site is in error, please contact me. I am always open to corrections, new ideas, and new opinions...

Some introduction:  Until the mid 90′s, Israeli pension plans were defined benefits plans, where one would pay into the pension plan based on his or her salary, and would receive an annuity (monthly amount received) upon retirement as well as a certain level of insurance.  The amount of the monthly annuity was based on the amount of years paid into the pension and the last salary received by the employee (or in some cases, your average salary).  Back then it was easy to choose a pension; one would compare the benefits of the plans and pick the one he or she felt best suited his or her needs.

In the mid 90′s the investment companies complained to the Israeli government about having to take responsibility for their own work and successfully lobbied for a defined contributions system, a system where the annuity one gets upon retirement is based on how much money is in the fund.  Okay, now in English.  The money I deposit into my pension fund is invested for me.  When I begin to retire, the pension fund manager looks at how much is in my fund and based on that (and a few other factors) decides how much I get as an annuity (if you’re wondering, you can get some as a lump sum, but that just affects the amount you’ll get for an annuity afterwards.)

There are five types of Pension Plans

(1)  – קרן פנסיה מקיפה חדשה  – also called זכאיות

קרנות חדשות are the most common type of pension fund and will be the major focus of this series.  קרנות חדשות are defined contributions plans that also include some level of life and disability insurance, earning them the label as a comprehensive (מקיפה) retirement plan.  These funds are entitled (זכאי) to invest up to 30% of the assets in government subsidized bonds that pay a dividend of 4.86%.  Due to the government subsidy included in the fund, workers may only invest up to 20.5% times twice the average wage into these funds each month.  Any additional money set aside for retirement must be invested in one of the following funds.

(2)  – קרן פנסיה כללית

קרנות כלליות pension fund that do not include any insurance and is not entitled to government subsidized bonds.  These are typically used by three groups (1) someone who wants to invest in a particular כללית fund and has no need for insurance and (2) upper middle class and wealthy individuals who make more than twice the average wage and therefore cannot put all of their money into חדשות and (3) people who want to put their money in a fund by themselves from money they earn other than the regular money put into ther pension (ie from commissions).  In the past, people would also invest in these funds to avoid paying fees on deposits, although the new fee laws of 2013 made this mostly irrelevant (see the upcoming post about fees)

(3) – ביטוח מנהלים

ביטוח מנהלים, manager’s insurance, is an alternative arrangement where money is put aside for a salaried worker’s pension in a direct contract with an insurance company.  Practically, this means that there is more room for variety when it comes to insurance and the money can be invested in a different way than the other קרנות פנסיה.

To understand the primary appeal ביטוח מנהלים, one must understand its most important feature in the past, a fixed מקדם המרה.  The מקדם המרה is the number by which the pension is divided in order to figure out an annuity.  For example, if my pension has one million shekels and I have a מקדם המרה or 200, I’ll get an annuity of ₪ 5,000 a month.  If it is 250, I’d get a pension of ₪ 4,000 a month.  In a regular קרן פנסיה, the מקדם is set upon one’s entering retirement and is based on the life expectancy of the worker, his or her spouse and the interest rate.  ביטוח מנהלים offered a fixed מקדם המרה where one did not have to worry about the rise in life expectancy.  Unfortunately, in order to do this, many insurance agents used predatory marketing to convince people to pay five or six times the fee they would pay for a similar קרן פנסיה in order to avoid a rise in life expectancy that has been deemed unrealistic by mainstream science.  Thank God, the government passed a law banning the sale of ביטוח מנהלים with a fixed מקדם המרה as of 2013, while also slashing the ridiculous amount that ביטוח מנהלים was charging in fees (see the upcoming post about fees).  Practically this turned ביטוח מנהלים into an alternative to קרנות פנסיה with only slightly higher fees, although more variety when it comes to insurance and more flexible bequeathing rights.

(4) – קרן פנסיה ותיקות

These are the old defined benefits pensions from before 1995.  Either you’re already signed up for this or you’re never going to be.  Like the current חדשות and כלליות, some had insurance and others did not.  Also, about half of the ותיקות were on the verge of bankruptcy and had to be bailed out by the government in 2003.  Those companies that were bailed out were done so with the agreement that they must pay less to their clients than had been promised during all the years that the clients paid into the fund.  If you have an elderly Israeli relative complaining about the government screwing him out of his pension, this is what he’s talking about.

(5) – קרן פנסיה תקציבית

These are similar to ותיקות, only these are only for government and university employees.  I’d tell you about all the perks they had, but it would probably make you cry with jealousy.  Suffice it to say, people with these made out like bandits.

My primary series will only deal with the first three types of pension plans, as these are the only ones from which one can choose from today.

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