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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

There's a growing trend among employers who want to exit the pension game. Some have decided to close out their traditional pension plans and instead offer lump-sum payouts or an annuity from an insurance company.

Many of the reasons companies give for leaving traditional pensions are understandable: the boom and bust market cycles that make it difficult to maintain a reliable funding stream and the often complex regulatory hassles connected to such plans.

But the problem with this practice is the responsibility for helping people prepare for retirement is shifting away from companies, which are well-suited to handle this burden, to retirees who aren't. The heavy lifting of managing investments, making sure returns can pay for a lifetime, and possibly the lifetime of a surviving spouse, all rest on the shoulders of retirees.

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Pen and calculator on a sheet of paperConfused about saving for retirement? Or have you been procrastinating on getting started? Here's a recommendation on how to begin.

Last year, Time magazine ran a top 10 hit list to improve your financial health. Coming in at number three: "Put 10% of Your Income Toward Retirement." One of the experts in the piece suggests that saving and investing at least 10 percent of your income no matter how much you make will put you on the right path.

In April, the retirement publication, PlanSponsor, echoed this approach with the headline, "Households Saving 10% on Track for Retirement." The piece was based on findings from a Lifetime Income Survey by Putnam Investments. "Overall, the study found that American households deferring 10% or more of their income to retirement savings are on track to replace more than 106% of pre-retirement income."

So if you've been putting off saving for retirement and don't know where to begin, start putting away 10% and grow your nest egg from there.

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.

Monthly CalendarWho's participating in National Save for Retirement Week? We are!

Now, you may be asking yourself, "What exactly is this week, and is this the only time I'm supposed to save for retirement?"

To answer your second question...Of course not!

Here's the answer to your first question:

National Save for Retirement Week was created to raise public awareness about the importance of saving for retirement. National Save for Retirement Week is held every year during the third week of October. The week provides an opportunity for employees to reflect on their personal retirement goals and determine if they are on target to reach them.

This effort started in 2006, when Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) introduced the first resolution establishing the week-long focus on retirement. Their goals were to elevate public knowledge about retirement savings and to encourage employees to save and participate in their employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Today, plan sponsors and plan participants around the U.S. take part in this important seven-day event. We invite you to participate with us by staying tuned for a blog post a day, right here on Retirement Matters

Photo: Academy President-Elect Tom Terry, PBGc CEO Josh Gotbaum, Academy President Cecil Bykerk

Academy President-Elect Tom Terry, PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum, Academy President Cecil Bykerk
Source: American Academy of Actuaries

PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum addressed the American Academy of Actuaries board last week. He applauded the academy's discussion paper, "Risky Business: Living Longer Without Income for Life," and encouraged the group to continue its lifetime income initiative. Gotbaum also discussed PBGC's efforts promoting sound retirement systems, and provided several ideas for how Congress, the public, and employers could each do their part to make sufficient lifetime income a reality.

In August, an analysis by the academy supported the methods used by PBGC to calculate the agency's financial position. "The Pension Committee of the American Academy of Actuaries believes the methods and assumptions used by the PBGC produce a reasonable representation of the PBGC's current obligation and deficit," the group said.

Editor's note: Portions of this blog post were reprinted from This Week with permission from the American Academy of Actuaries.

Collage of images - a photo of the Euro currency symbol, a photo of Australia on a globe, and the Canadian flag

While the U.S. faces a retirement crisis, other countries have implemented programs that provide a better level of economic security in retirement. As compared to the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands provide higher retirement income for citizens through social security and universal/quasi-universal employer retirement plans.

These findings are in a new research brief, Lessons for Private Sector Retirement Security from Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands authored by John A. Turner, PhD, Pension Policy Center director, and Nari Rhee, PhD, National Institute of Retirement Security manager of research.

"Americans are struggling to save for retirement," says Rhee. "The typical family has only a few thousand dollars saved. Yet, other advanced countries are doing a far better job of enabling older populations to have economic security in retirement. We hope our research provides insight and ideas for U.S. policymakers working to improve Americans' economic insecurity." Download the full research brief.

The National Institute on Retirement Security originated the content of this post.