A new study by the Canadian Financial Executives Research Foundation found that almost 60 percent of financial executives surveyed indicated that their pension plan posed either a moderate or substantial risk to their organization. The research project was sponsored by Mercer.

At the end of 2012, only about one in 20 Canadian defined benefit plans were fully funded on a solvency basis. The biggest factor in the decline was that long-term interest rates have plunged to their lowest levels in 60 years. Disappointing asset returns, demographic pressures and the increasing maturity of pension plans also have played a part.

"The results indicate that hope for better days is not enough and that Canadian corporations must stop depending on investment returns or increasing interest rates to cover pension funding deficits. Organizations need to plan ahead to lower risk to their plans, through a combination of strategies," said Michael Conway, chief executive and national president of FEI Canada.

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