Friday, May 29, 2009

Good jobs for retirees tend to emphasize "people skills"; AOL has major story today

The AOL jobs page this morning, Friday May 29, listed some categories where employers prefer older workers. They included health care, consultant, financial planner, Brand manager, and career counselor. The URL is this link. The column was called "Age Advantage Jobs."

The reasoning should be clear. Many older people prefer receiving medical care from some one closer to them in age. Some of the other fields benefit from having several decades of “life experiences.”

I think that a career switch to health care can make sense in the 40s or early 50s, but not later yet. Life insurance companies do recruit retirees as agents and will sometimes train them as financial planners, but to succeed in that business one needs to be “socially aggressive”, usually through family, to be able to make business contacts, as well as manage online presence and reputation carefully. Brand management again benefits from years of social experience. (My own experience is that sometimes financial planners can become a bit aggressive with repeated calls to get business, and insist that the client give them a hearing.) The most suitable for me of these would be consultant (especially on Internet and law problems) and career counselor (or headhunter), based on my having lived through a cultural sea change in information technology.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Early pension withdrawal: Continental airlines sues a few pilots for a "divorce scam"

A novel pension problem has occurred with nine Continental Airlines pilots. In each case, a pilot divorced his spouse and then the beneficiary (usually the ex-spouse) withdrew money early from his or her pension account, allowed under federal law. When the couples got back together, the airline sued.

The story appeared on ABC “Good Morning America” Wednesday May 27, but there is an account on eTurbonews here.

Pilots say that they fear loss of pensions later because of economic conditions. Karen Friedman, apparently speaking for the Pension Resource Center (link), appeared on the GMA show and said that the pilots’ pensions were safe, and that the PBGC, despite the large increase in its obligations during the recession, still is well funded.

As a whole, I haven't heard of retirees being sued by employers much, but in a few cases retirees have lost pensions when going to work for competitors, especially in the insurance industry. We'll look into that for another posting soon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Robert J. Samuelson proposes "Let Social Security and Medicare go under"

Robert J. Samuelson has a brutal column in Newsweek, “Let the Grow Bankrupt, Soon: Solving Social Security and Medicare”, published May 23, 2009. The link is here. My first reaction is to compare this with Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal."

He says that the ‘reckoning dates” of 2017 and 2037 for Social Security and Medicare (respectively) are still distant, so Obama’s pre-inauguration “end of the road” after “kicking the can down the road” metaphor are just talk. But Samuelson brutally takes on the “noun ‘entitlement’” even for relatively affluent retirees – ignoring the fact that all of them had to contribute (through FICA and Medicare taxes) money to qualify for benefits, so there is some substance to the idea that these programs are “annuities.” But, he’s right, some just moderately affluent retirees face financial cataclysm at the time of bankruptcy if “something isn’t done”. It will be.

This sounds like one of John Stossel’s “You can’t talk about that.”

ABC has story on underfunded pensions; GM to announce bankruptcy June 1; how will pensions be handled?

The “Money” column on ABC News has a comprehensive discussion of the pressure on corporate defined benefit pension plans, dated March 30, 2009. The story is by Scott Mayerowitz, it is titled “Next Recession Victim: Your Pension and Retirement Plan: Companies Cut Back or Eliminate Pensions and Retirement Savings Contributions as They Struggle With the Economy”, with this link.

The most common action for companies is to freeze pensions. That hurts long term workers because the pension calculation usually is based on the most recent five years of service, when earnings are the highest.

Freezing of pensions is different from terminating a pension plan, which usually requires coverage by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Companies with poor pension funding may have been affected by the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Sometimes employees may not be able to take their pensions as lump sums if they choose.

In a late development, NBC reports that GM will file for bankruptcy Monday June 1. (Forbes story by Joann Muller is here.) We’ll have to watch how the pension matter for GM is handled, and whether the PBGC is involved. The Treasury will pump $50 billion into the restructuring, giving the public 70% ownership as the company comes out of bankruptcy. A typical story (Michigan Messenger) says that GM’s unfunded pension liability is $13.5 billion and the Treasury may have to pour some more money into PBGC. The CNN story by Chris Isidore is "GM bondholders reject offer: Source says few GM bondholders were interested in a proposal to swap debt for stock - virtually guaranteeing a bankruptcy filing in the next few days," link here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Financial planners can be put in a bind if they suspect a client has dementia

Jane Bryant Quinn has a column on the Business Page, G1, of The Washington Post today, “Families, Finance and Dementia.” The article points out that brokers and financial planners should recognized that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are rapidly increasing as a public health problem, and that planners need to be alert for irrational or suspicious financial transactions. One problem occurs if the elderly person make a totally irrational decision; another is if a relative with a power of attorney makes a request make a request that suggests abuse.

The article mentions the trial of Anthony Marshall, the only child of Brooke Astor, who has pleaded not guilty on charges of manipulating his mother, demented before her death at 105, to changing her will.

Relatives who whole a Power of Attorney may, in some states, have the capability to cause abuse that may be hard to monitor. The article mentions a proposed Uniform Power of Attorney Act of 2006, adopted so far only by Colorado, Idaho and New Mexico, but likely to pass soon in Maine, Ohio and Wisconsin. The link is here.

The article mentions that the Financial Planning Association in Denver held a forum May 23, “You Think Your Client Has Dementia: Now What.”

The Quinn article is here. Check out the last sentence; it's pretty abrasive.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

CNN has curious story on heart exercise stress test

CNN Health has a story by Anne Harding about an abbreviated exercise test, to predict mortality in older people with suspected heart problems, including angina, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure. The test sounds like it is related to the typical electrocardiographic stress test, where leads are attached to the patient’s chest and torso and the patient walks on a treadmill for 20 minutes or so. Test preparation requires abstaining from caffeine or alcohol and sometimes fasting that morning. It might involve wearing a Holter monitor for some time. In male patients, it could require some shaving,

I’m a little surprised to see a lot made of it now on CNN, as the test has been common for decades.

Back in 1999, ABC news anchor Charles Gibson underwent an emergency weekend angioplasty after feeling chest pressure, and his medical progress was shown on the morning news. There was a lot of discussion of the stress tests that he would take regularly from then on.

In my own case, having turned 65 and on Medicare, I was told that my doctor would not renew my own prescription of Atenolol until I came in for a battery of tests. I want to save Medicare money with less medicine, and ignorance is bliss. The government is encouraging me to take unnecessary tests that I don’t want.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

PBGC deficit has exploded in the past six months

Deb Reichmann of the Associated Press reports today that Congress is looking more closely at both the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and at the rules that companies must follow in funding their pensions. The story is here. The Washington Post printed a synopsis of the story on p A15 on Wednesday May 20.

Because of the severe recession and poor market performance in the past nine months, the deficit for PBGC has tripled since Sept 30, now over $33 billion. This raises concerns about the possibility of another Congressional “bailout” which PGBC denies.

There are allegations of conflict of interest concerning the PGBC former director, Charles E.F. Millard.

Update: May 22

The Washington Post has an important story in the Business Section by David Hilzenrath, "U.S. Pension Insurer May Need Aid as Deficit Soars: Shortfall Fed by Flood of Corporate Bankruptcies", link here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Suze Orman long term care case shows that consumers must be careful with family caregivers

AOL Walletpop, in a story by Zac Bissonnette, “In defense of Suze Orman,” tells about a lawsuit against her and her long term care insurance business for not paying a family’s claim. The problem was that family members had been among the caregivers, and this was in violation of the policy.

Apparently there was an issue, in the fine print, as to whether it mattered whether family caregivers lived in the same residence.

The article goes on to discuss Suze Orman’s philosophy, whether she “blames the victim” with her “smackdowns,” particularly on Oprah and sometimes on Larry King Live.

The importance of the story, however, is to be very careful how a long term care policy is written. It may matter if a family member gives care, lives in the same residence, pays rent, or is compensated.

Generally, the IRS has always regarded uncompensated care within a household as a personal matter (not reportable or deductible unless certain specific situations apply). Sometimes eldercare or trust attorneys will set up trust agreements where family members can get compensation for care, as well as expense coverage, but then IRS rules can get tricky, as can insurance, and state laws can vary also.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Supreme Court rules for AT&T on case involving pension credit for unpaid maternity leave

In a complicated case involving retired women who had taken maternity leave while at AT&T, the 9th Circuit had ruled that the company had to count unpaid maternity leave toward pension benefits. The Supreme Court overruled that holding today, 7-2.

The Reuters story is by James Vicini, link here.

The case is AT&T Corp v. Hulteen, slip opinion link here.

The Bush administration had backed AT&T, saying that Congress did not make a pension credit law (regarding unpaid paternal leave) retroactive. That may sound surprising for a “family values” administration.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Do male caregivers have more problem with the "intimacy" and empathy required than women? Troubling trends

John Leland has a very troubling article in the Nov. 28, 2008 New York Times, “More men take the lead role in caring for elderly parents,” link here. Leland describes the history of Peter Nicholson, who gave up his job and took huge financial losses and incurred his own health problems after moving in with his mother in Los Angeles to take care of her after some strokes.

There is a commentary in the Salon "Broadsheet", Dec. 1, 2008, “Male caregivers need feminism, too,” link here.

This whole issue is very Janus-faced. There is a social stereotype (and perhaps real) that women are more naturally empathetic and nurturing, and men (like Spock) are most insistent on logic, and resistant to relating to people on the basis of emotional need than facts. There is the notion that men are more likely to insist on outsourcing and hiring Home Health. And men may be much more troubled by the “squeamishness factor” as in the articles.

On the other hand, many men, as well as women, who never had kids themselves have essentially been “mugged” or ambushed by eldercare problem, as in the New York Times story. As a general matter, the intimacy required may be much less "threatening" to someone who has already raised his own family and been able to make and keep his own marital commitment (below). Much of this is happening because, as we have discussed, demographics (the old “demographic winter” and “empty cradle” problems discussed by Phillip Longman and others). And the problem will only get worse as the economy puts more of a squeeze on Medicare and Medicaid, forcing more filial responsibility.

We’ve gotten used to the idea that emotional commitment (including unconditional openness to intimacy) is connected to the “voluntary” marriage vow (and that can now even apply to gay couples as well as traditional families). If you think about it, you can see how the eldercare problem can turn all this upsidedown.

Support groups and their documents generally say that caregivers are naturally entitled to preserve their own personal space in life and their own even assets. But it’s far from clear that society is committed to that proposition yet, or what will happen as the demographic storm intensifies. Are we going to think of family continuity and empathy as a pre-existing obligation for everyone?

Sacrifice is just that. The demographics of eldercare and the questions as to whether the long term care insurance industry really can keep up, all could ironically provide novel arguments for legal recognition of gay marriage and gay adoption. We could see another day when parenthood is almost mandatory.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

AARP proposes followup hospital care Medicare benefit, says it will reduce costs

AARP issued a pre-emptive ("before the fact") response to the “sky is falling” report on Medicare, actually on May 12, in an article titled “Health Reform Must Lower Costs, Improve Care for People in Medicare”. The link is this.

The AARP wants to focus on preventing hospital readmissions for the same problem for the elderly, which it says happens often. For example, patients on blood thinners often have repeated bleeding problems, which could be life-threatening.

AARP wants to add or strengthen a “Medicare follow-up care benefit” which could include care in skilled nursing facilities or much more careful working with family caregivers. It would also include automation of medical records and automation of the coordination of prescriptions.

It was unclear if this benefit would be covered under Part A or Part B or might require more supplementary insurance.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More analysis on rate of deterioration of Social Security and Medicare raises alarms

Amy Goldstein’s front page article in The Washington Post on Wednesday, May 13, 2009, “Alarm Sounded On Social Security: Report Also Warns Of Medicare Collapse” (link here), is already one of the most viewed articles, according to the paper.

The story contains a graph that shows that the projected insolvency year for social security has pulled back before, and in the 1990s was in the 2030’s decade. It’s probably more relevant to look at the bar graph that shows how many years remain from the current year – redrawing it as a line is a good homework exercise for a middle school Algebra I class, I think.

Right now, that number is 28 years for social security, the least since the 1990s. And Medicare has only 8 years until insolvency.

The report came from Treasury, and the rapid deterioration of social security seems to be a direct consequence of the recession and banking and credit collapse.

There is a “derivative” (in the sense of calculus) effect here; unless the economy improves, that 28 year number could go down next year to something like 25. I can already imagine that the Educational Testing Service could be imagining “free response” questions on analyzing this issue for its math tests for AP kids.

Social security will take in less money than it spends by 2016 (one year sooner), now in seven years, according to the report. And the portion that funds disabled Americans becomes insolvent in 2020 (instead of 2037), in just eleven years.

Mathematics says that Congress could fix this problem today by raising total social security taxes from 12.4% to 14.4% (making workers sacrifice), or by reducing benefits by 13% (making retirees sacrifice), or by a combination of both. It’s obvious that Congress could raise the wage base maximum.

This gets to the nasty topic of means testing, which even libertarian commentators like John Stossel have hinted maybe would be done some day. Privatize most of the retirement system, and use the public social security and Medicare only for those without assets. But then that gets into a nasty political and social question over what people “deserve.” Right now, social security applies an Annual Earnings Test until full retirement age, which effectively means that until full retirement age Social Security is viewed partially as a kind of “welfare” rather than an earned annuity. One could push up full retirement age much sooner. One could include pensions or assets in the form of IRA’s or property in the means test, but that would be a bureaucratic mess (like the IRS). I hope this won’t happen, but we hear that this is the can that has been kicked down the road. However Timothy Geithner warned, “The president explicitly rejects the notion that Social Security is untouchable politically.” However he said that the administration wants to tie Social Security and Medicare reform to universal health insurance. So far, some of the proposals – like a soda tax – sound rather silly, like stuff in history texts. Still, it's possible to imagine a European-style partially private plan that offers universal health insurance blended in with existing Medicare, and save Medicare money that way.

With Medicare, it sounds like we have to reign in on unnecessary tests – and that means malpractice tort reform for starters. But – and European health plans face this too – we also face the long term prospect of age-related rationing. And we may have to build much more of “filial responsibility” back into the law – which could turn our debate on “family values” on its butt. It's ironic that we call Social Security and Medicare "earned entitlements" and treat them sometimes as if they were like "welfare" and sometimes as if they really were individually earned like annuities. Social conservatives will want to bring "family responsibility" back into the debate.

The Wall Street Journal’s report, by T. W. Farnam, is briefer, and is here.

The New York Times has a story “Recession Drains Social Security and Medicare” by Robert Pear, with link here.

The Washington Times (conservative!) has a surprisingly modest report by David M. Dickson here.

Yes, Chicken Little, the sky really is falling this time! Your reputation stands!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Social Security and Medicare trust funds will go underwater years before previously predicted, according to alarming new report!

Dow Jones Newswires have an alarming report by Meena Thiruvengada, maintaining that both Social Security and Medicare trust funds will run out of money earlier than had been previously predicted.

Social Security has a similar press release by Mark Lassiter here.

“The projected point at which the Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2037 -- four years sooner than the estimate in last year’s report.”

Expenses will exceed revenues for Medicare’s trust fund by 2017, two years sooner than predicted in 2008.

Our president said, before the inauguration, that the load that we kick the can down has come to a dead end. And it is a one lane unpaved road.

Jeanne Sahadi has a hard-hitting report on CNN Money, "Recession hits Social Security hard: Geithner unveils report on entitlement programs. Social Security trust fund may be exhausted 4 years sooner than earlier forecast. Medicare is much worse off", link here. So the report seems to have originated with Treasury and may be related to the "electrocardiographic" stress tests of the banks.

PA company settles with workers on pensions after closing plant with large number of workers near retirement

Emily Sachar has an entry in her column “The Law” on p. 30 of the May 1, 2009 AARP Bulletin, “Shutting Down to Avoid Paying Pensions: The issue: Can a company shut down a plant in order to avoid paying workers their pensions?”

The company at issue is Freight Car America (FCA). About 75 workers sued the company for closing a plant in Johnston, PA , claiming that the plant had been singled out for closing because of the preponderance of older workers approaching retirement. Eventually, the workers collected pension rights that they would have earned had the plant remained open through October 2009.

The Chrysler bankruptcy and likely GM reorganization must be watched carefully to make sure that these kinds of closures do not happen or deprive workers of pensions that they would have collected.

Picture: Johnston PA flood site, May, 2007.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Medicare and the lack of dental coverage

Does Medicare cover dental services? Well, not very much, unless closely connected to an underlying “medical” condition like a cancer. Here is the basic Department of Health and Human Services reference at the HHS “Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services”

Similarly, hearing aids and eyeglasses are not covered, as with this item from a Q&A. Congress would have to change this, not likely given current demographics and budget pressures.

However, there is some movement within the Medicare Advantage (Medicare replacement) world offered by private carriers to offer it. For example, the Expansion of Dental Benefits Under the Medicare Advantage Program, Robert D. Compton, D.D.S., in the "Journal of Dental Education", with this abstract. Blue Shield of California offers a Dental PPO for Medicare Part B Supplement (link) to customers.

Dentists might argue that there is major medical relevance to regular dental work. Inflammation related to periodontal disease is often a major contributor to coronary artery disease and contributor to myocardial infarction.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Home Health Aides are underpaid, could become scarce, according to Post story today

The Washington Post Magazine has disturbing story for the Mothers’ Day May 10, 2009. The front page cover has the title “Cut-Rate Angels: America is increasingly relying on home-care aides like Marilyn Daniel to keep the elderly out of nursing homes. Yet we barely pay them a living wage,” with the link here. On p 12, the story, with a nighttime picture appears: “Marilyn Daniel’s Reward: She works long hours for low wages as a home health aide – a job so demanding and underappreciated that others leave in droves. So why hasn’t she”.

The author of the article, Paula Span, will have a question and answer Monday May 11 at 11 AM EDT at the Washington Post website.

The link for the story is this.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the occupation category of “personal and home-care aides” is the nation’s second largest growing job category.

But typically they have no health insurance and benefits and work as freelancers through home health agencies.

The article indicates home health in the Washington DC area typically costs $17 to $19 an hour, with $1500 a month a typical expenditure. Assisted Living typically runs $3700 to $4000 a month (whereas “senior apartments” away from major cities for adults requiring no services can be quite reasonable). A shared room in a nursing home can raise $7000 a month.

The article says that a man reaching 65 today can expect to reach age 82, whereas a woman can reach 85. The article discusses infirmity in many of the elderly, although some people, as in the “Blue Zones” (as on Oprah), reach 100 with little assistance.

But with a population aging, and becoming infirm because medicine, as it is practiced, often does not maintain vitality, the need for custodial care will grow. More and more it will fall on family members, including more of those who never had children or never married, even men. There is a bit of karma to deal with here: we depend on people to do what we don't want to do ourselves -- and this gets to an existential area that affects with how we see ourselves in relation to others. That circles back around to our old fashioned thinking about moral issues -- that community matters as well as the individual, and that some uncertainty and risk sharing must be taken on by everyone. But this is also an area where gender really does matter, sometimes.

AOL published a post by Anthony Balderrama, writer, "7 Stable Jobs" here on June 11, 2009, mentions, as item 6, "Personal and Home Care Aides", and indicates a low annual earnings, around $22000. That entry reinforces the Post story above. The job market is becoming much more weighted toward personal interaction than it was fifteen years ago.

A tangentially related story, however, appears in The Washington Post June 14, by Annie Gowen, "Nannies No Longer Rule the Roost: Parents Regain Economic Power to Be Picky in Hiring Help", link here.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Maria Shriver promotes her new documentary "The Alzheimer's Project", offers self-test

Maria Shriver appeared on ABC Good Morning America to speak for her new documentary film, "The Alzheimer’s Project". She is reported in The San Francisco Chronicle by Justin Berton, Friday May 8, link here. She calls this the “Baby Boomer epidemic” and notes (in a Q&A) that many have had to quit their own jobs to care for parents, and this could force themselves into secondary dependency themselves, so this is a huge looming public health problem.

The ABC appearance mentioned a self-test that would indicate whether memory loss in an older person warrants attention. One item on the test is whether a person can draw the positions on a clock for a particular time.

Imaeyen IBanga has a story on ABC news about the film here and it supposed to air on HBO on May 10.

Having trouble remembering names and places may be a problem, but not if infrequent. Short term memory is an issue, but sometimes that comes from the absentmindedness of preoccupation with other matters, when it probably is not a problem.

Physical exercise may delay or prevent vascular dementia (which also causes loss of memory but is not Alzheimer’s) or Alzheimer’s itself.

Update: May 10, 2009

I have a review of the first segment of the HBO series here. I will add on to the reviews as the week continues with the remaining films.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ignatius: Baby boomers are in real trouble as they retire: another bailout?

David Ignatius has a gloomy column in The Washington Post today, “Boomers Going Bust.”

A typical boomer would collect about $2400 in benefits a month if starting full retirement at 66 in 2020. At that age, $100000 in cash would buy a $700 a month annuity, not enough to qualify for much.

His link is here.

The median balance in retirement accounts among households with at least one account was only $45000,

Ignatius talks about a “retiree bailout” but Obama has actually talked about cutting back on “earned entitlements” and allocating resources helping people stay at work. And increasingly, more seniors work in fast food places. That was true in 2002 at the McDonald’s right next to the suburban Minneapolis office park where Right Management, my own outplacement service, was located. And they say fast food is where you “find out if you can work.”

Please see also my story today (May 7) on my TV blog about John Stossel's upcoming ABC 20-20 special including a report on Medicare and "generational theft".

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Social Security beneficiaries will not get a COLA increase in 2010, most are protected from Part B premium increase

On Sunday, May 3, 2009, the New York Times is reporting in a story on p A20 by Robert Pear, “Social Security Will Not Raise Benefits in ’10, Forecasts Say,” link here.

The Congressional Budget Office is indicating that social security beneficiaries are unlikely to receive another “cost of living” benefit increase (COLA) before 2011, perhaps not 2013. This will be the first time in several years. In 2009, beneficiaries received about a 5% increase.

Social Security’s own page explaining COLA is here.

Most beneficiaries are protected by federal law from increases in their Medicare Part B premiums above the current $96.40 (usually deducted from social security). It's not immediately clear to me from web searches who is not covered by the federal law protecting them from such increases outside of COLA. They are not protected from increases in Part D (prescription drugs – previous post) or supplementary Part B offered by private insurance carriers (including many Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans). Part B supplements, by and large, cover most of what is not covered by Part B and are necessary as a practical matter for many retirees.

Social Security has a Medicare Part B Income-Related Premium – Life-Changing Event form here.

The AARP has a “Ms. Medicare” FAQ column, and on May 4, 2009 it has a column by Patricia Barry, “When Does the Part B Late Penalty Clock Start Ticking?”, link here.

Some of this matter reminds me of President Obama’s previous comments, before his inauguration, about “kicking the can down the road” with respect to entitlement funding and actuarial sustainability.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

First, I offer no apologies -- for my own Medicare Part D exprience with AARP; Second - watch the premiums go up

First, I offer no apologies for my “Andy Warhol” style art in my photos. Sometimes with one of these postings, to explain a concept (particularly having to do with retirement, finances, taxes, real estate assessments, etc) the simplest way is to photograph the applicable government or corporate form with a simple background from a household furnishing. So, yes, I get a picture that looks comparable to Andy Warhol’s soup cans, water bottles or fake inedible hamburgers (particularly in Pittsburgh).

AARP Medicare Plans and United Health Care have been sending me an EOMB (“Explanation of Benefits”) on my Medicare Part D, prescription drug benefit. They show “true out-of-pocket amount”m “what the plan and others paid”, and then some fixed items: (1) annual deductible (2) initial coverage (3) coverage gap (or doughnut hole) (4) catastrophic coverage. I did get in for a very reasonable premium at age 65, and all but $30 of a $600 British topical drug for a facial skin lesion (actinic keratoses) was covered.

You will get an EOMB even for a very trivial prescription. Believe it or not, some prescription drugs are cheap – when there are four or five manufacturers competing. The conservatives are right about some things.

But the premiums will surely go up. I already got an increase on Supplementary Part B from UHC for the first half of 2009, and another one for the second half.

Friday, May 01, 2009

ING provides a sample "Annual Funding Notice" for its pension plan; Chrysler bankruptcy supposed to leave pensions intact

ING has sent to retirees a copy of its “Annual Funding Notice” and the document illustrates (for retirees of most large corporations that have offered defined benefit plans) how pensions work, and how retiree safeguards are supposed to work.

There is a table that gives a “Valuation Date” (January 1, 2008) and a “funding target attainment percentage,” which as 88.5%. The higher the number, the better, the document says.

However, asset values on the chart are “actuarial values” (as computed by textbook mathematical formulas), not market values, which can be very volatile.

The document does give a “Summary of Rules Governing Termination of a Single-Employer Plan” and a section called “Benefit Payments Guaranteed by the PBGC”. The maximum guaranteed benefit would be $51750 a year, and can be less for a surviving spouse or for a retiree under 65.

The paragraphs on the rules for termination are provided for information only; they fact that they were provided has nothing to do with the health of this particular plan.

A quick note about the Chrysler "bankruptcy" and pensions:

I do understand (from network reports), by the way, that the Chrysler Chapter 11 Bankruptcy plan is supposed to protect the pensions of retirees. However, it appears that they will lose some health benefits. The Wall Street Journal story (“Chrysler Pushed Into Fiat's Arms: Italian Car Maker, UAW Main Owners; Obama Pledges Brief Stay in Bankruptcy; Creditors Take Hit” by Neil King, Jr. and Jeffrey McCracken is here.