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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

A lot of jobs only offer a 401(k)-style plan to new employees – worse yet, most employees don't have a workplace retirement plan at all.

But there's good news too: about 75 million Americans, and their families, can still rely on lifetime income from a defined benefit pension plan. That's income that they'll get no matter how long they live, and no matter what happens in the markets.

We think that's important. We fight hard so that companies going through bankruptcy reorganization keep their pension plan promises. And, since it's up to the company whether to offer pensions or not, we work hard to reduce regulatory burdens, and to increase flexibility, for companies willing to offer them.

And, when a company's finances are so bad that it can't keep its pension promises, PBGC is there with a safety net.

Jobs that come with pensions are rarer these days, but landing one can help enhance the security of your retirement in these too-often uncertain times.

Visit our Press Room to see what we're doing to protect pensioners and what we do to help employers continue to offer them.

Kodak logo

Last week, there was a Kodak moment that all of the company's employees and retirees could be proud of.

On Tuesday, Eastman Kodak Co., known for its iconic film business, ended a 20 month bankruptcy proceeding with its two pension plans intact. That means the nearly 63,000 people covered by those plans will have a more secure retirement.

When companies seek bankruptcy protection it doesn't automatically mean that plans will be shut down and come to us. During Kodak's bankruptcy, we were on the unsecured creditors committee and we worked with them to ensure the plans would continue.

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Allied Systems Holdings Inc. logoPBGC will pay retirement benefits for more than 650 current and future retirees of Allied Systems Holdings Inc., a vehicle transportation business based in Atlanta, Ga.

The agency stepped in because Allied Systems is selling the majority of its assets in bankruptcy proceedings and potential buyers haven't agreed to continue the company's three single-employer pension plans.

PBGC will pay all pension benefits earned by Allied Systems retirees up to the legal limit of about $57,500 for a 65-year-old.

Retirees will continue to get benefits without interruption, and future retirees can apply for benefits as soon as they are eligible.

According to PBGC estimates, Allied Systems plans are collectively 58 percent funded with $45 million in assets to pay $78 million in benefits. The agency expects to cover the entire $33 million shortfall.

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MyPBA  (My Pension Benefit Account) is our secure online service that lets you, the participant, handle certain common transactions with PBGC.

Participants in PBGC-trusteed plans can use PBGC's fast, free, and secure online service tool to apply for pension benefits, update contact information, adjust federal income tax withholding, and more.

Since generations accustomed to using technology are joining the ranks of retirees, this helps PBGC in enhancing technological resources, making your interactions with PBGC easier and more user-friendly.  

The old system, which came online around 2004, has been decommissioned, while the new MyPBA recently got a facelift complete with features designed to give participants a more convenient option to calling the agency's Customer Contact Center.

Some of the new and improved items include:

  • login
  • registration
  • email communications

About 250,000 participants with MyPBA accounts are expected to use the new MyPBA system at some time in the future.

But, if you wish to call PBGC's Customer Contact Center, we'd still like to hear from you!

PBGC will pay benefits for 27 current and future retirees of Wrightco Technologies Inc., a for-profit educational center located in Ebensburg, Pa.

The agency stepped in because Wrightco's pension plan is unable to pay retirement benefits.

PBGC will pay all pension benefits earned by the company's retirees up to the legal limit of almost $56,000 a year for a 65-year-old.

The Wrightco Technologies Inc. Cash Balance Plan will end as of June 28, 2013.

Retirees will continue to get benefits without interruption, and future retirees can apply for benefits as soon as they are eligible.

PBGC can provide general information now and will be able to answer more detailed questions once we receive the pension plan's records. Participants in Wrightco's plan will be notified by letter after the transfer occurs.

For additional information, please email us at mypension@pbgc.gov or call 1-800-400-7242 (8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST, Monday - Friday) (TTY/ASCII: call 1-800-877-8339 and ask to be connected to 1-800-400-7242).

Wrightco was founded in 1989 and provides high-tech training in areas such as fiber optics and data communications. After several years of poor financial performance, the company sought Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Johnstown, Pa., on July 18, 2012.

How PBGC is changing the narrative on Retirement Security

From J. Jioni Palmer, Director, Communications and Public Affairs:

Photo of J. Jioni Palmer, Director of Communications & Public Affairs, CPAD

J. Jioni Palmer
Director of Communications & Public Affairs

I've always been fascinated by storytelling: The Harry Potter series, This American Life, Grimm, The Twilight Zone, The New Yorker and just about anything by Walter Mosely. Books, movies, radio, print or online periodicals, fact or fiction, it doesn't matter. Interesting characters and a compelling narrative rivet me.

I also particularly like watching commercials and I'm constantly amazed by the brilliance of ad writers who can develop the scene, introduce relatable characters and tell a complete story in 30 or 60 seconds. Beyond hawking products or pushing ideas, I find commercials offer interesting insights on the zeitgeist of a particular demographic, culture or society.

Today, in almost any hour of evening television, sandwiched between myriad commercials for insurance companies and the latest solution to make housecleaning a breeze, you'll see spots about encouraging the viewer to plan for retirement.

One really resonates with me because it echoes a true story we at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation tell a lot lately: people are living longer but retirement security isn't keeping pace. In the commercial, the narrator asks people to place a blue sticker along a timeline next to the age of the oldest person they've ever known. Not surprisingly, there are many dots ranging between 80 and 110. The spot closes with, "How do you make sure you have enough money to enjoy all of these years?"

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor PBGC endorses the products or services of the sponsor.

Since its inception in 1974, PBGC has been at the forefront of protecting the retirement security of the American people in defined-benefit pension plans offered by private companies. Now, most people probably don't know the agency exists, let alone think about us until the business they work for goes belly-up and they hear talk that the pension they've been looking forward to is about to evaporate.

Fortunately, PBGC does exist, and the safety net it provides allows most workers and retirees to keep the full promised benefit they've earned over many years.

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