How big a difference does the variable benefit make in the system's fiscal health? Quite a lot, particularly in a year like this one when the fund's investment performance was strong. It earned a return of $313 million, or 14.2 percent. Under the mayor's reforms, all of that can be plowed back into the fund. Under the old system, about $97 million of it would have gone toward increased benefits. That is to say, in this year alone, eliminating the variable benefit is almost nine times more significant to the fund's health than the increased employee contributions. Over the long run, because the reform both helps maximize assets and hold down expenses, its importance is magnified even more.