In coming years, more than half of workers and retirees in terminated multiemployer plans will face a reduction in benefits under current PBGC guarantees if their plans run out of money, according to PBGC's Multiemployer Guarantee study (PDF) released earlier today.
This study takes a closer look at how the guarantee limits will impact the pension income of workers and retirees in multiemployer plans that will receive financial assistance from PBGC.
In the past, only about 20 percent of workers and retirees saw a reduction in their benefit - typically that loss represented about 10 percent of their promised benefit. This study finds that these losses are both likely to apply to more people and likely to be larger in percentage terms as more multiemployer plans run out of money and require financial assistance from the agency.
In a recent Pension and Investments opinion column, former PBGC executive director Bradley Belt addressed what needs to happen to keep PBGC from a federal bailout. Belt cited PBGC's Projections Report, which notes the improved condition of the single-employer program. However, the multiemployer program has "deteriorated alarmingly," Belt said.
A federal bailout is avoidable, according to Belt, provided three changes are made to current law: An overhaul to the premium structure, a change in the agency's governance, and a greater ability to determine financial solutions.
Disclaimer: This column does not necessarily represent the views of PBGC or any of its executive leaders and managers.
PBGC runs two insurance programs that safeguard retirement benefits in different ways.
Lately, you may have heard about multiemployer plans and the financial troubles that some of them are having as described in our Projections Report. Currently, PBGC insures more than 10 million workers and retirees in about 1,400 multiemployer plans.
PBGC doesn't take responsibility for multiemployer plans; instead, we send financial assistance to plans that have run out of money to pay promised benefits. During FY 2013, PBGC paid $89 million in financial assistance to 44 multiemployer pension plans covering the benefits of nearly 50,000 retirees. An additional 21,000 people in these plans will receive benefits when they retire.
The news isn't good for 1.5 million people across the country in a swath of multiemployer plans. According to PBGC's Projections Report, released last week, these plans are likely to fail putting the retirement benefits of current and future employees in jeopardy. Not only that, but if those plans fail it may bring down the entire system and with it the retirement security of the 10 million people within it.
Right now, there are more than 10 million people and their families covered by about 1,400 multiemployer plans in industries like construction, mining, supermarkets, transportation, and hospitality. Massive losses during the economic slowdown in 2008-2009, left many plans seriously underfunded. The economy has improved significantly, but for the plans most in trouble, the improved economy was not enough. These plans responded by increasing contributions and reducing future benefits but it still wasn't enough.
Despite substantial economic and market gains, multiemployer pension plans covering about 1.5 million people are severely underfunded, threatening benefit cuts for current and future retirees, according to the FY 2013 Projections Report released today by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. By comparison, the financial situation for private single-employer plans, which cover about 30 million participants, is projected to improve.
As required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, PBGC annually provides an actuarial evaluation of its future expected operations and financial status. The FY 2013 Projections Report (formerly called the "Exposure Report") released today provides a range of estimates of the future status of private pension plans and their effect on PBGC's financial condition, drawn from hundreds of economic scenarios.
In the recently published article "Thought Secure, Pooled Pensions Teeter and Fall," New York Times reporter Mary Williams Walsh gets candid commentary from PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum on the crisis facing the multiemployer pension system.
Gotbaum was quoted saying, "If Congress allows the PBGC to get the money and the authority it needs to do its job, then these plans can be preserved," he added. "If not, the PBGC will run out of money, too, and multiemployer pensioners will get virtually nothing. This is not something that can wait a few years. If people kick the can down the road, they'll find it went off a cliff."
Read the full article and find out more about multiemployer pension plans.