Chilean miners get lifetime pensions, but …
A smile came to my face when I first saw the headline, Lifetime pensions awarded to 14 of the trapped Chilean miners. Of course the miners deserve pensions. After all, they were trapped underground for nearly three months!
But then I remembered that there were 33 miners stuck in that mine. So less than half of them will receive pensions. Apparently, the decision as to which of the miners would receive pensions was pretty arbitrary. According to the article, “the Chilean government chose the miners who will receive the lifetime pensions based on their health, age, and the opinion of the group of survivors.”
Umm, that doesn’t sound fair to me. In fact, it sounds downright outrageous. Thank goodness we in the United States have the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the law regulating the nation’s private pension plans. Such discrimination would never be allowed in this country under ERISA. The nation’s landmark private pension law prevents employers from discriminating against their employees. Right?
Not quite. While ERISA does include so-called “non-discrimination rules”, these rules don’t go far enough toward protecting employees from discrimination in retirement plans. Unfortunately, many employers take advantage of loopholes in the law to sidestep ERISA’s rules.
Today marks 37 years since ERISA was signed into law. As we’ve noted in the past, ERISA has achieved many retirement plan protections for workers and retirees, but there is still so much work to be done.
Learn about some of the ways employers can bypass the law:
- The facts about church pension plans
- Qualified Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans (Q-SERPs)
- Carve-out pension plans
- Certain provisions of the Center’s Consumer Agenda for Retirement Security
Photo credit: Chilean government under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
Looking for help with your retirement plan?
If you have a problem with your retirement plan, free help may be available from the U.S. Administration on Aging's network of Pension Counseling and Information Projects. Find help now.
PensionHelp America connects people who need help with their pension, 401(k), and other retirement plans with the pension counseling projects, legal services providers, and government agencies that can help answer their questions. Visit www.pensionhelp.org.
Retirement USA is a national initiative that is working for a new retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for future retirees. Visit the website.
Did You Know?
A lump sum distribution is a method of paying benefits from a pension plan in which a participant's entire beenfit is paid out in a one-time payment. Lump sum distributions are sometimes called cash outs.