As the economy struggles, U.S. companies continue to shift from defined-benefit pension plans to 401(k)s. The most recent example is General Electric, which closed its pension plan to new salaried employees at the end of 2010.

As a recent Bank of New York Mellon survey of public and private pensions notes, "Plan executives know they will pay now for retiree benefits, or they or society will pay later." But "unprecedented cost pressures" faced by U.S. retirement plans have been forcing providers' hands, the report says.

Now, however, help is on the way for companies that view pensions as an important tool. (According to the BNY Mellon survey, more than half of company executives say retirement plans make recruiting more competitive).

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