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PRC Perspectives Blog

Current economic crisis helps make the case for guaranteed pensions

Posted by Joellen Leavelle on October 07, 2008

During the last few weeks, the Wall Street roller coaster has wreaked havoc on the economy and the retirement assets of the millions of American workers with 401(k) plans.

For workers who, like me, are relatively young and decades away from retiring, the current economic crisis doesn't make me terribly anxious about my 401(k). While the economic downturn concerns me, I'm not too worried because I have ample time to prepare for retirement. But I do admit that even I am too afraid to look at the balance in my 401(k) account!

But what about people who are closer to retirement age? 


Radical thinking from...BusinessWeek?

Posted by Nancy Hwa on September 22, 2008

A timely and provocative op-ed by BusinessWeek's contributing economics editor Chris Farrell flatly states, "Keep Wall Street Out of the Retirement Business."  Farrell goes on to ask:

Question is, in light of the current turmoil in the financial markets, should Wall Street manage any of our long-term retirement savings funds? Is the 401(k) plan, which has become the main retirement savings vehicle for the American worker over the past three decades, a mistake? The case for rethinking the 401(k) as a pillar of retirement savings is compelling. More...

More on the meltdown

Posted by Nancy Hwa on September 19, 2008

What a week.  The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch's sale to Bank of America, and the government rescue of AIG were just the latest upheavals in this churning Subprime Summer.  I've been getting calls every day from reporters, wanting to interview people who are concerned about their 401(k) accounts.

People are right to be concerned.  For many American workers, a 401(k) account will be their only source of retirement income besides Social Security.  While one should expect market fluctuations to affect their account balances, no one likes to see their 401(k) take a nosedive. More...

How does the Wall Street meltdown affect my pension?

Posted by Joellen Leavelle on September 18, 2008

In the past few days, large companies on Wall Street have been closing left and right, making the people who work at these companies jittery about many issues, including their retirement security.

The good news for these employees is that the money in their pension and 401(k) plans is protected from creditors, so that even when a company goes into bankruptcy, they don't have to worry about their retirement money being used to pay back debts instead. More...

Happy birthday, ERISA!

Posted by Rebecca Davis on September 02, 2008

Happy 34th Birthday, ERISA!

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the date that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, known to those in the field of pensions as ERISA, was signed into law. In a tribute to the workers who would be helped by the new law, that day, September 2, 1974, fell on Labor Day.


Bankruptcies rising among older Americans

Posted by on August 29, 2008

An Associated Press story appearing in the Washington Post this week carries disturbing news about the deteriorating financial health of older Americans.

According to an analysis by the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, which studied bankruptcies filed between 1991 and 2007, the bankruptcy filing rate has risen dramatically for Americans over the age of 55, with the oldest age group having the greatest increase.  More...

The paper chase: Keeping track of your pension

Posted by Kyle Garrett on August 15, 2008

Every day I receive calls from workers and retirees who need help with their pensions.  Often, the people I speak to are looking for lost pension income that their employers promised would arrive at a critical time in their lives - retirement.  These callers may be having trouble locating their pensions or finding out if they are even eligible to receive benefits. More...

How the rich get richer

Posted by on August 06, 2008

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal published a shocking exposé about how companies are using pension plans - which are intended for rank-and-file workers - to covertly fund the executive benefits of their highest-paid officers.

WSJ journalists Ellen Schultz and Theo Francis report that "At a time when scores of companies are freezing pensions for their workers, some are quietly converting their pension plans into resources to finance their executives' retirement benefits and pay." More...

Social insecurity

Posted by Joellen Leavelle on July 30, 2008

Last week the federal minimum wage rose to $6.55 an hour, increasing the annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker to $13,624.  While it's certainly the right move for Congress to raise the minimum wage for current workers, it raises an important question about retired workers.  Take a look at our statistics page and you'll see why: The average retired worker's Social Security check is now less than that of a minimum wage worker. More...

How much does a 401(k) really cost?

Posted by on July 24, 2008

When I was head of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (the Department of Labor agency charged with protecting pensions) during the Clinton administration, I became concerned about whether or not people who had 401(k) plans truly understood how much they were paying in fees and what those fees were for. So in 1997 and 1998, we held hearings and issued a report [PDF] on the issue.

A couple of months ago, I decided to take another look at the 1998 report to see what had changed in the last 10 years. More...

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