A type of retirement plan in which the payout changes depending on how well the plan’s investments perform. Variable benefit plans, also called defined contribution plans, allow the plan holder to manage his or her own account. By contrast, a defined benefit plan provides the plan holder with predetermined payments upon retirement that do not change and which are based on an eligibility formula rather than on investment returns.
Explained further: Variable benefit plans shift investment risk from the employer to the employee. It is possible that the employee will end up with less money from a variable benefit plan if he makes poor investment choices. However, he also has the power to make superior investment choices and end up with better benefits. Therefore, the ability of the employee to make smart investment decisions is critical in variable benefit plans.
Definition courtesy of Investopedia