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Lump-Sum Distributions: An Update

16 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2002  

Craig Copeland

Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)


An advantage of defined contribution plans is that the benefits can be retained and continue to grow when an individual changes jobs because the account balances continue to receive investments returns. However, this advantage will result in increased retirement savings only if plan participants do not cash out the benefits prior to retirement. This article assesses the likelihood that lump-sum recipients will cash out their benefit. The data clearly show that a growing percentage of retirement plan participants are holding on to all or part of their lump-sum distributions and fewer are spending their distributions on consumption. However, it was also found that approximately two-thirds of those who took a lump-sum payment cashed out at least some of it. The article concludes that more education and incentives are needed to make employees understand the importance of retaining these assets for retirement.

Keywords: Employment-based Benefits, Lump-sum Distributions

JEL Classification: D31, J26

Suggested Citation

Copeland, Craig, Lump-Sum Distributions: An Update. EBRI Notes, Vol. 23, No. 7, July 2002. Available at SSRN:

Craig Copeland (Contact Author)

Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) ( email )

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Suite 878
Washington, DC 20005-4204
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