The erosion of the defined benefit pension in America.


For workers of a certain age, it was typical to remain employed at a single company for decades or an entire career. This kind of loyalty was highly respected and as the old cliché of receiving a gold watch for decades of service springs to mind, the real prize for workers was the ironclad guarantee of retirement security in the old age.

The defined-benefit pension — once considered the norm for older Americans — has been hobbled by fiscal maneuvers that have hollowed out most of what those benefits were meant to provide.

Immediate corrective action by Congress is needed to avert a retirement income security train wreck that crashes down the tracks for millions of worry-sick seniors.

In the past decade alone, corporate America has outsourced more than $220 billion in retiree retirement assets to insurance annuity companies and other private equity investors, with little or no safety net for retirees, if this risky bet did not work out well.

This corporate financial trend, officially called risk reduction, was so strong in 2021 that more than $40 billion in retiree assets were transferred from the security of a retirement plan to the unknown of a retirement annuity. collective retirement.

Shouldn’t there have been a headline somewhere, given this huge – nearly a quarter of a trillion – part of someone’s retirement money trading?

Unlike the requirements of a pension plan, group retirement annuities leave the millions of people who depend on these assets in the dark, as there is no transparency as to who is doing what with our retirement money. Are our retirement funds hidden in the Cayman Islands or in a bank in Russia? Or maybe they’re invested in some business venture that only Bernie Madoff would approve of.

Risk reduction occurs when large corporations offload or transfer their retirement pensions, replaced instead by a group annuity contract. Unlike a pension, these annuities are not federally protected under the Employees Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), nor are their investments transparent.

Recent federal legislation, the Pension Risk Transfer Accountability Act of 2021 (HR5877) by U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.) and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), would avert this crisis and bolster accountability. ‘ERISA.

In 2011, 41,000 of my fellow Verizon retirees had their pensions converted without any warning or recourse. It was our alarm bell.

Who can guarantee us that these same pension assets will not be transferred later, again and again? Or that the next investment manager will act prudently and in the best interests of retirees?

We all grow old and hope that a dignified retirement awaits us as we enter the last stage of our lives. To be suddenly forced to fight for retirement security now, in the depths of our golden years, is simply immoral.

Tens of millions of my retired colleagues have already provided time and work to former employers, over decades-long careers, that we cannot take back – and those employers should not be able to take back what they had offered and promised in exchange. No one at this age should have to worry about pension thieves leaving us destitute at this fragile time in life.

American retirees must support a movement to secure our retirement.

Thomas Steed is president of the nonprofit BellTel Retirees Association, which fights for the rights of tens of thousands of retirees from Verizon, AT&T, Frontier, Lucent and other communications companies that spun off from the old system. Bell. He is retired from Verizon, served with the Communications Workers of America. Edward S. Stone, esq. is founder and executive director of the non-profit retiree advocacy group Retirees for Justice, headquartered in Greenwich.


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