A pension fund, also known as a superannuation fund in some countries, is any plan, fund, or scheme which provides retirement income.
Pension funds typically have large amounts of money to invest and are the major investors in listed and private companies. They are especially important to the stock market where large institutional investors dominate. The largest 300 pension funds collectively hold about $6 trillion in assets. In January 2008, The Economistreported that Morgan Stanley estimates that pension funds worldwide hold over US$20 trillion in assets, the largest for any category of investor ahead of mutual funds, insurance companies, currency reserves, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, or private equity.
The Federal Old-age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund is the world’s largest public pension fund which oversees $2.72 trillion USD in assets.
Open vs. closed pension funds
Open pension funds support at least one pension plan with no restriction on membership while closed pension funds support only pension plans that are limited to certain employees.
Closed pension funds are further subclassified into:
- Single employer pension funds
- Multi-employer pension funds
- Related member pension funds
- Individual pension funds
Public vs. private pension funds
A public pension fund is one that is regulated under public sector law while a private pension fund is regulated under private sector law.
In certain countries the distinction between public or government pension funds and private pension funds may be difficult to assess. In others, the distinction is made sharply in law, with very specific requirements for administration and investment. For example, local governmental bodies in the United States are subject to laws passed by the states in which those localities exist, and these laws include provisions such as defining classes of permitted investments and a minimum municipal obligation.