When the 2007–’09 financial crisis destroyed billions of dollars in global pension assets, no country was immune — not even the Netherlands, whose retirement system ranked No. 1 for 2011 in the annual Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index. One of the Dutch scheme’s strengths is that during tough economic times it adjusts employer and employee contributions as well as retiree payments. Then there’s the high, 105 percent funding bar that plans must reach before full benefits are paid out. The same goes for any cost-of-­living adjustment.

By early 2012 it looked like many Dutch pension funds would have to cut benefits over the next year because they were still below 100 percent as a result of the crisis. At Amsterdam-­based APG Asset Management, the Netherlands’ largest pension manager, with €300 billion ($413 billion) in assets, business strategist Eric Veldpaus hatched a partial solution. Veldpaus observed that with the discount....