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PBGC Blog: Retirement Matters

40th anniversary logo

PBGC was just getting started when Vietnam was winding down, President Nixon resigned, the NFL granted a franchise to Seattle, and Americans preferred avocado green kitchen appliances over anything that color on four wheels.

When we started, we churned out plans and memos and reports from typewriters and could smoke on the job, and pensions still seemed to be almost as solidly American as basketball, jazz, and poker.

In the distance, however, the sunrise of change was already hinting at dusk.

Events and crises, economic disruptions and volatility triggered a shift in how pensions were viewed — morphing from promises and pledges that were "solid" to being cast as liabilities on balance sheets. During 40 years our creativity and resourcefulness have been challenged, keyed on what tools we can use to protect Americans.

As we look at our 40 years to see where we came from and how our mission has been steadfast in changing dynamics, here is what part of our world was like when PBGC — as well as 21 of our current employees — was born.

The nation had never seen anything like us: an agency dedicated to saving pensions and protecting those about to lose pensions.

We were then, and we still are.

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Col. Charles McGee

Col. Charles McGee delivers keynote address at PBGC'S Black History Month Celebration.

On Feb. 11, 2014, PBGC staff witnessed living black history as the agency's Chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG) and the Special Emphasis Program (SEP) hosted the annual Black History Month program. With the national theme in mind, Civil Rights in America, this year's program was widely deemed one of the greatest in PBGC history.

Col. Charles McGee, an original, and now retired, member of the Tuskegee Airmen delivered the keynote address to the agency's staff as they filled the building's training institute in celebration of Black History Month. McGee's career in the legendary all-black 332nd Fighter Group-12th Air Force began in 1944. He is among the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed forces.

During WWII black pilots were trained at a segregated air base in Tuskegee, Ala., and became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. At the helm of P-39 fighters they flew hundreds of patrol and attack missions, and were also used to escort B-17 and B-24 bombers. The airmen were portrayed in the 2012 motion picture, "Red Tails," produced by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas. The Red Tails nickname came from the ruby-toned tails of the airmen's planes.

In his address, McGee recounted the struggles he and his fellow soldiers faced as African Americans in the Air Force. Throughout World War II, African Americans in a number of U.S. states were subject to Jim Crow laws and all branches of the military were racially segregated. But these obstacles didn't stop McGee and his peers from stepping up and fighting for freedom at home and abroad. He stressed the "Three Ps," which helped to shape his illustrious career as a Tuskegee Airman: persevere, prepare, and perform. "Excellence should always be your goal," McGee said.

On Jan. 31, 1973, McGee retired from the Air Force after 30 years of military service.

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Constar Logo

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.  

If you receive a retirement benefit from PBGC, all or some of the money may be taxable. Every year, we report this amount to the IRS and send you an IRS Form 1099-R that states the amount we paid you the previous year. 

We'll mail your Form 1099-R for 2013 to your address of record by Friday, January 31, 2014. If you don't receive your form soon after the mailing date, we offer the following options:

  1. Use our online service, MyPBA, to view and print a copy of your 1099-R tax form for the most recent tax year.

OR

  1. Call PBGC's Customer Contact Center at 1-800-400-7242 to request a form by mail.

Before you call, please have your Social Security number, plan name and case number ready for the customer service representative.

For more information, see IRS Form 1099-R Frequently Asked Questions.

States with the Highest Number of Unclaimed Pensions. New York (6,678/$40.33 million). Illinois (4,344/$85.36 million). California (2,966/$7.64 million). Texas (2,278/$10.68 million). New Jersey (2,114/$11.70 million). Ohio (1,908/$12.82 million).
The beginning of a new year typically means the onset of new goals and perhaps the continuation of last year's resolutions. For many, saving more money might always be #1 or a close second on that list.

One source of this year's extra savings could be money from an unclaimed pension.

Across the country, there are more than 31,000 people who haven't claimed pension benefits they are owed. Those unclaimed pensions are now north of $280 million, with individual benefits ranging from 12 cents to almost $1 million.

The states with the most missing pension participants and money to be claimed are:

  • New York (6,678/$40.33 million)
  • Illinois (4,344/$85.36 million)
  • California (2,966/$7.64 million)
  • Texas (2,278/$10.68 million)
  • New Jersey (2,114/$11.70 million)
  • Ohio (1,908/$12.82 million)

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