Pension funds are flinching from the real estate slump, low fixed-income yields and weakness in stocks. Reserves - assets in excess of the minimum amount actuaries believe is necessary to fund known obligations - are down a little since early 1990. Nevertheless, pension funds still look like the Rock of Gibraltar, according to Changing Times, the Kiplinger Magazine.

Private defined-benefit pension plans - the kind in which the employer promises a monthly check of a certain size regardless of investment results of the plan's portfolio - have assets totaling 140 percent of liabilities, up from 125 percent in 1980 and 136 percent after the 1987 market tumble."Many companies are not even putting in additional money now," says Michael Trenk, senior associate with Morgan Stanley Pensions, in New York City. "There's enough to cover benefits in many cases for several years."