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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

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PBGC will pay retirement benefits for more than 4,400 current and future retirees of Constar Inc., a plastic container manufacturer based in Trevose, Pa. just outside Philadelphia.

The agency stepped in because the company is selling the majority of its assets in bankruptcy proceedings and the buyer isn't assuming responsibility for the pension plan.

PBGC will pay all pension benefits earned by Constar's retirees up to the legal limit of about $59,320 for a 65-year-old.

Retirees will continue to get benefits without interruption, and future retirees can apply for benefits as soon as they are eligible.

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President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014.

President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday Jan. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

In his fifth State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged Congress to help restore opportunity for Americans, but pledged to take action himself.

In an effort to bolster retirement security, he announced that he will use his executive authority to direct the Department of the Treasury to create "myRA," a starter savings account to help people prepare for retirement.

In case you missed it, here's an excerpt from his speech:

"Let's do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today, most workers don't have a pension.  A Social Security check often isn't enough on its own.  And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn't help folks who don't have 401ks. That's why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It's a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.  MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in..."

For a more in-depth explanation of "MyRA," read the White House issued FACT SHEET: Opportunity for All: Securing a Dignified Retirement for All Americans.  

Race and Retirement Insecurity in the United StatesNew research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) examines racial disparities in retirement readiness among working-age Americans and households.

The new report calculates the severity of the U.S. retirement security racial divide. The analysis finds that every racial group faces significant risks, but people of color face particularly severe challenges in preparing for retirement. Americans of color are significantly less likely than whites to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan or an individual retirement account (IRA), which substantially drives down the level of retirement savings.

Some of the key findings include:

1. Workers of color, in particular Latinos, are significantly less likely than White workers to be covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan—whether a 401(k) or defined benefit (DB) pension.

2. Households of color are far less likely to have dedicated retirement savings than White households of the same age. At the same time, coverage appears to be positively associated with the existence of dedicated household retirement savings in both groups. 

3. Households of color have substantially lower retirement savings than White households, even after controlling for age and income.

Race and Retirement Insecurity in the United States serves as a companion to NIRS' July 2013 study, The Retirement Savings Crisis: Is It Worse Than We Think?, which documented a significant retirement savings gap among working-age households in the U.S.

Read the full NIRS report, Race and Retirement Insecurity in the United States.

Elizabeth Warren (AP Photo/Steven Senne)The retirement crisis is real and growing as millions of workers have less access to employer-sponsored plans and are saving less money. As a result, the opportunity of living a secure and comfortable retirement among many workers is gradually decreasing.

This crisis has not gone unnoticed. On Monday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke on the Senate floor about the need to address issues of retirement and social security. Throughout the speech, Warren reaffirmed the fact that the nation does face a retirement crisis, contrary to the belief of the Washington Post's recent editorial. Warren also called on Congress to strengthen Social Security rather than to cut benefits that many retirees depend on for their retirement.

As Warren said, "the conversation about retirement and Social Security benefits is not just a conversation about math. At its core, this is a conversation about our values."

Read the full text of the speech.

Line chart: ACSI Index. Retiree Results from 2009 to 2013: 89, 87, 90, 89 and 90. Federal Government Aggregate from 2009 to 2012: 69, 65, 67 and 68.PBGC's FY2013 Annual Report, released Friday, provides a detailed summary of our year — both successes and areas for improvement.

The 125-page review of the agency covers the period beginning Oct. 1, 2012 and ending Sept. 30, 2013.

PBGC's deficit increased to about $36 billion in FY2013, up from about $34 billion last year.

Opening with messages from PBGC Board Chair, Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez and PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum, the report examines ways to improve the agency's financial health and highlights our great scores in customer service.

Retirees receiving benefits continue to rate PBGC as one of the best in government for its commitment to customer service. The agency ranks in the top 3 percent in a survey measuring 154 categories of customer responsiveness. Retirees gave PBGC a score of 90 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), more than 20 points above the government average. A score of 80 or higher is considered excellent, whether for a government agency or a private business.

Aside from our distinguished customer service, the report also discusses three overarching goals:

  • Preserve plans and protect pensioners
  • Pay pension benefits on time and accurately, and
  • Maintain high standards of stewardship and accountability

Since you're a Retirement Matters subscriber, you've been kept abreast of PBGC news as it happens. This report can give you further insight on the year in review at PBGC.

See the full FY2013 Annual Report (PDF).

ERISA at 40 – The past puts pension law in perspective

Photo provided courtesy of Drexel University's Earle Mack School of Law

From the Pension Rights Center:

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), the law governing private retirement plans, has changed quite a bit since it was signed into law in 1974. There have been numerous amendments, court cases, regulatory actions and other developments. ERISA has had such an impact on Americans' everyday lives that it has become a field of law unto itself.

ERISA buffs frequently come together to explore the law as it is now and to discuss how it impacts current and future retirees. But an in-depth exploration of ERISA's past is a much rarer occurrence. On October 25, 2013, lawyers, actuaries, and other professionals from all corners of the pension world gathered in Philadelphia for a unique, day-long discussion of the history behind the law. The topic? ERISA at 40 - What Were They Thinking? An Oral History of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.*

The symposium, hosted by Drexel University's Earle Mack School of Law and co-sponsored by the Pension Rights Center and the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, was organized by Norman Stein and James Wooten. Norman Stein is a Drexel University law professor and PRC Senior Policy Advisor and James Wooten is a professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and author of The Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974: A Political History. Participants in the symposium represented a Who's Who of ERISA, including Assistant Secretary of Labor of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, Phyllis Borzi, and J. Mark Iwry, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Retirement and Health Policy. The symposium also featured several individuals with ties to the Pension Rights Center: PRC Board members Dan Halperin, Regina Jefferson, and Ian Lanoff; Fellows Dianne Bennett, Bill Bortz, Frank Cummings, Bob Nagle, and Henry Rose; and PRC's Director, Karen Ferguson.

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