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.
That's why if given the choice, in most cases, an annuity is the best option for a financially secure retirement. "In most cases, the lump sum won't compensate for loss of the pension, unless you're in poor health and don't expect to live very long," says a pension expert in the column, "When should workers take a pension buyout?" by Mark Miller of Reuters.
If faced with this choice, before picking either of these options, it's a good practice to get unbiased professional advice. This is different from talking to financial advisers or investment firms that would like a chance to invest your money themselves.
For certain, these aren't easy choices. But a simple guide might be to save more, spend less, and always go with an annuity because it provides the best financial protection during retirement.