By Richard F. DeMong
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Additional resources for Broader Perspectives on the Interest of Pension Plan Participants
IV. Reasons for Underfunding Pensions There are basically three reasons why economically healthy firms d o not fully fund their pension funds. These reasons are not mutually exclusive but are in fact usually interelated. The complexity and confusion cited earlier which surrounds pension funding is one reason. T h e precautionary need for funds in the firm and firm liquidity-safety concerns are another. Third is the question of the marginal cost of pension liabilities and the marginal benefits the firm receives from these "borrowed" funds.
Productivity gains in the economy mean that income per capita tends to rise faster than inflation, making for gains in real income. Personal spending always keeps up with income-with new technologies bringing forth a stream of new goods that soon become necessities. There was a time when home electronics meant a radio. Then television came, followed by color television and now perhaps a video tape recorder or home computer-with more to come in the future. Much the same pattern is followed throughout the economy.
Z. , op. cit. Martin Feldstein, National Bureau of Economic Research Study of Unfunded Pension Liabilities, Harvard University, 1980. 1° A debt ratio adjusted for a pension liability increases debt and total assets. T o date, research has only examined the effect of the traditional perspective. ll Each work supports the theory that unfunded pension liabilities appear to adversely affect firm value. I n addition, Bodie et al. 12 Research to date thus supports the idea that funding pension liabilities adds value to the sponsoring firm.