How PBGC is changing the narrative on Retirement Security
From J. Jioni Palmer, Director, Communications and Public Affairs:
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.
PBGC protects pensions. So, what is a pension? To most people, a pension is a retirement arrangement in which your employer promises you a regular payment from the day you retire, for as long as you live. The amount of your pension usually depends on how long you worked for an employer and your salary with that employer. Ask a retiree, "What is a pension?" and they may say,
"A pension is the $400 per month I receive for my many years of service at Acme Widgets. My pension helps to supplement the $600 per month I receive from Social Security and my retirement savings."
Normally, employees must work for an employer for a certain time period before the benefits they have earned belong to them. After they have done so, they are considered "vested" in those benefits. Today, in some pension plans, you are fully vested after five years on the job. In others, it takes you seven years to become fully vested - but you become vested in increasing portions of your benefit starting at three years. If you've worked for more than one company long enough to become vested in multiple pension plans, you can receive more than one pension payment.
So far, in fiscal year 2013, PBGC has surveyed around 10,000 folks, but what does it mean?
When PBGC comes into someone's life, it may be at a time when everything is broken. Customers have lost jobs, insurance, promise of a comfortable retirement. Death, disease, and disability may bring these trials to a crisis. While the Corporation can't solve every customer's every problem, it can provide compassionate and responsive service to those who may feel cheated, abused, or simply discarded by the trusted employer who terminated a promised pension.
PBGC can and does measure how many benefit determinations we send out and how fast we issue benefit estimates, which is just part of the story. We won't know about our success in providing information through online sources and by delivering checks, until we hear from the person on the other end. Was it on time by your definition? Was it what you needed? Did we help you understand?
When you tell us the truth, you reveal the opportunities for a process that flows well and makes sense, a graphic that makes a complicated matter clear, a few words that provide assurance and restore a little bit of faith in humanity.
PBGC welcomes your feedback, your questions, and especially your ideas on how we can all work together to make those moments of beauty a more frequent reality for you the customer.
Renting a new apartment? Buying a house? Applying for benefits from a government agency? If so, someone may ask you to prove your income.
If you get a retirement benefit from PBGC, we'll be happy to verify the amount you receive. Mail us your request in writing, and we'll send income verification to you or a third party (like a landlord or mortgage company).
To protect your privacy, we have to be sure you authorize us to send out this information. So you or the third party will have to follow a few simple steps. You can find complete instructions on our Income Verification Procedures webpage.
If you are new to the PBGC family, we know you have a lot of questions. Even if you've been with us for a while, changes in your life or something you hear in the latest news may raise more questions.
Chances are, if you're wondering about it, someone else is, too. That's why we keep an extensive list of FAQs (frequently asked questions) on our website.
From benefit payment options to PBGC's financial condition, we've got it covered. Just click on the link above to see it now.
For future reference, look for the FAQs in the top menu on the main page of PBGC.gov. And, if you are new to PBGC, check out "New to PBGC", a page designed especially for you.
Still have questions? We're just a phone call or email away.
If you receive a retirement benefit from PBGC, all or some of the money may be taxable. Every year, we report this amount to the IRS and send you an IRS Form 1099-R that states the amount we paid you the previous year.
We'll mail your Form 1099-R for 2012 to your address of record by Thursday, January 31, 2013. If you don't receive your form soon after January 31, 2013, you may use the options below to request a duplicate 1099-R, as early as February 1.
- Use our online service, MyPBA, to view and print a copy of your 1099-R tax form for the most recent tax year.
- Call PBGC's Customer Contact Center to request a form by mail. The number is 1-800-400-7242.
Before you call, please have your Social Security number, plan name and case number ready for the customer service representative.