The U.S. is not alone in revamping its pension plan rules. Last month, legislation was passed in Japan that opens the door for retirement and financial companies to enter that market, according to Larry Zimpleman, senior vp of the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines. As it stands now, only more traditional pension plans can be offered in Japan, where the benefit an individual receives is a function of his salary and how long he worked at his company, and the employer takes on the responsibility of the funding.

"Japan stands out and stands alone in the developed world when it comes to retirement plans," said Zimpleman. "There was a building consensus within the Japanese government that additional flexibility was needed in that regard."

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