The Retirement Burglary

The Retirement Break-in

Considering that Retirement Break-in: How Companies Plunder and Make Money From the Nest Eggs of American Workersby Ellen E. Schultz. If a country of sheep shall beget a government of wolves, then the lesson from Retirement Break-inis that today the shears are sharpened with numbers.Retirement Heist is,

as one blurb explains, a" diligently looked into and grasping as a crime thriller."Each chapter describes, with comprehensive research information and outrage-generating examples, yet another approach corporations use to steal retirement benefits and mask the theft behind accounting shenanigans. It is one of the few books(given that Cadillac Desert)to describe outrageous behavior so well that I threw it throughout the room.In calling the tricks accounting shenanigans, I may be unjustly maligning the

accounting profession. From the joke on page 54, I learned the difference between accounting professionals and actuaries: A CFO is speaking with candidates for a task as a benefits consultant. He calls the very first one, an accountant, into his workplace and asks,"Exactly what's 2 plus 2?"The accounting professional says,"4. "The CFO sends him away, calls an actuary into the room, and asks," What's 2 plus 2? "The actuary closes the door, takes down the blinds, then leans in and whispers,"What do you want it to be?"He gets the job.Among the marvels worked by these advantages, experts are teaching companies ways to break down advantages without reprisals. One approach is to make a series of changes, each possibly illegal however small enough not to be worth a lawsuit. Make a big destruction. If anyone sues, the defense is that, by not objecting the earlier changes, employees provided implicit authorization to this change.Among such explanations of wholesale deceptiveness, there are a couple of heartening stories-- for instance, of Fred Loewy(page 191 ), an 80-year-old former French resistance fighter and rocket engineer who retired from Motorola and found a$100-per-month mistake in his pension payment. He pleasantly requested for the quantity to be evaluated. After years of rejection and runaround, consisting of licensed letters sent out back unclaimed(the business later on explained its behavior in court as extensive cooperation ), he submitted a federal suit. It got licensed as a class action because the very same mistake had actually been made with numerous other retired people. A few months before Loewy died, the retirees won a settlement of$11 million.One's happiness is tempered since federal pension law (ERISA )consists of no compensatory damages, not even for such egregious behavior. The damages are limited to remedying the errors. Hence, it is in the business interest to make"mistakes.

"The worst that can happen is that an ex-resistance fighter and rocket engineer shows up, and you end up paying some of your legal obligations. Primarily, nevertheless, no one notices, or they die while waiting on a speck of justice.The cost savings from the shenanigans barely go to Mom Theresa's orphanage. Rather, as Retirement Heist shows, they go to outsized pensions and other benefits for executives (such as pumping up the stock price, consequently enhancing executives with stock alternatives).

For some companies, one-third of their pension commitments were just for the executives.Mirroring the degradation of retirement security explained by Schultz, I've been under three pension systems, the second slightly worse than the first, and the 3rd a lot worse.My first real job was at the University of Cambridge, where I was part of the Universities Superannuation Plan(USS). I contributed 6.25 per cent of my income, and Cambridge University contributed 18.75 per cent(triple matching ). This total of 25 per cent went to USS, an independent company set up by the UK universities. At retirement, USS offers a lump-sum payment and a final-salary pension computed as follows: After 8 years of service, I left the USS plan and pertained to MIT. The MIT plan had a similar pension formula: For short-term staff members, whose typical and final wages are equivalent, MIT's strategy with its smaller denominator is much better than the USS strategy. For long-lasting employees getting raises at 2-3 percent( if you can find any ), whose last salary is considerably higher than the typical income, the USS plan is

much better. Furthermore, the USS plan was multi-employer. One could take a scholastic position throughout the UK and still collect years of service.Both the USS and MIT plans are a conventional, defined-benefit pension where the retired person gets a defined amount at retirement. As Retirement Heist describes, these premium plans are the strategies that companies have actually been removing( other than for their executives). My third and existing plan is a defined-contribution plan.

I put in 2.5 percent of my wage and Olin College puts in 7.5 per cent. This overall of 10 percent contribution is mine to utilize upon retirement. Terrific news! The 10per cent that is contributed is a lot less than the 25 per cent that USS uses to provide a good pension. Additionally, all the threat is mine. When the invisible hand slaps the world upside the head, turning 401(k )'s into 201 (k)'s, it's my issue. Another 25 years of service on this newest and biggest plan, which I am sad to state is better than exactly what lots of people in the United States have, might provide me something similar to exactly what I get for 8 years of service on a genuine, defined-benefit pension. No marvel defined-contribution plans have actually been called" The 401 (k) ripoff." After knowing of the scams and scams described in Retirement Break-in, I recognized maybe the greatest advantage of the USS plan: The contributions were real cash, and handled by a separate entity whose sole purpose was ensuring that it might pay the pensions it promises. Under the USS system, there are no incentives to shift pension funds toward executive payment or to utilize them to pump up the stock price(not least because USS has no stock). In corporate America, the exact same entity prov iding pensions has many other requirements, so it utilizes the pension fund as a casino as much as the law allows and typically beyond(with barely any penalty ). As but one example, bankruptcy of the company mostly damages the employees pension and the company's pension obligations, offering business an incentive to go bankrupt.If the destruction of pensions were done to treat cancer or bring safe drinking water to all the world, I may be pleased to make the sacrifice. Nevertheless, executive settlement and stock-price adjustment are barely charitable works. The moral of all this: Unless you are an executive with big payments extracted from the 99 percent, you are being ripped off, and Shultz reveals the how and why.