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.
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.
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.
Since the end of the recession more people are working for employers that offer retirement plans, and plan participation is up, according to a new report from the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute — but most workers still have no retirement plan.
The data in the report is from the U.S. Census Bureau's latest Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) on retirement plan participation, covering December 2011 to March 2012.
Some key takeaways are:
- 61 percent of all workers over age 16 had an employer that sponsored a pension or retirement plan for employees in 2012, up from 59 percent in 2009.
- Workers participating in a plan increased to 46 percent in 2012, up slightly from 2009 (45 percent) but below 2003 (48 percent).
- The vesting rate (the percentage of workers who say they were entitled to some pension benefit or lump-sum distribution if they left their job) stood at 43 percent in 2012, up from 24 percent in 1979.
- This change is largely due to the increased number of workers participating in defined contribution retirement plans (such as 401(k) plans), where employee contributions are immediately vested, and faster vesting requirements in private-sector pension plans.
- 401(k)-type plans were considered the primary plan by 78 percent of workers with a plan. Defined benefit (pension) plans were the primary plan for 21 percent of workers.
Take a look at notes from the Retirement Plan Participation: Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) Data, 2012.
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.