This paper examines the impact of the timing of contributions to defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) plans on investment returns. I show that net contributions to DB plans are counter-cyclical, while net contributions to DC plans are uncorrelated with the business cycle. Given the past mean reversion in equity prices, the counter-cyclicality of net contributions to DB plans means that dollar-weighted returns on DB plans are higher than the geometric average of annual returns. Therefore, using dollar-weighted returns as a measure of investment performance, the advantage of DB plans over DC plans is greater than using geometric average returns. Overall, I find that dollar-weighted returns on DB plans are more than one percentage point higher than that on DC plans.
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