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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

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.

Multiemployer graphic reading: What is a Multiemployer Plan? A multiemployer plan is a collectively bargained pension plan involving two or more unrelated employers, usually in a common industry such as construction, supermarket chains, trucking, textiles or coal mining.

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. 

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PBGC Multiemployer Plan System is in Increasing Touble.

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.

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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.

Image showing multiemployer plans coverage

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.

Logo: MyPBA

If PBGC is responsible for your pension benefit, the easiest way to transact business with us is through MyPBA, our secure online service.

MyPBA is fast, free, and available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your online transactions are safe and confidential. You can change your address, sign up for direct deposit, designate your beneficiary, print out your IRS Form 1099-R, and view your payment information.

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Joshua Gotbaum sitting with Adam Shapiro

In part two of the Fox Business two-part series "Nationwide Retirement Crisis," PBGC Director Josh Gotbaum says millions of Americans have no retirement savings, calling the issue a national crisis.

In his interview, Gotbaum addressed issues concerning the existing retirement system, including:

  1. The existing retirement system is not covering most people,
  2. It doesn't lead to enough saving,
  3. And it doesn't lead to lifetime income.

People are living longer, healthier lives, which means retirement will cost more.

Watch the complete video interview on the Fox Business website.