How PBGC is changing the narrative on Retirement Security
From J. Jioni Palmer, Director, Communications and Public Affairs:
J. Jioni Palmer
Director of Communications & Public Affairs
I've always been fascinated by storytelling: The Harry Potter series, This American Life, Grimm, The Twilight Zone, The New Yorker and just about anything by Walter Mosely. Books, movies, radio, print or online periodicals, fact or fiction, it doesn't matter. Interesting characters and a compelling narrative rivet me.
I also particularly like watching commercials and I'm constantly amazed by the brilliance of ad writers who can develop the scene, introduce relatable characters and tell a complete story in 30 or 60 seconds. Beyond hawking products or pushing ideas, I find commercials offer interesting insights on the zeitgeist of a particular demographic, culture or society.
Today, in almost any hour of evening television, sandwiched between myriad commercials for insurance companies and the latest solution to make housecleaning a breeze, you'll see spots about encouraging the viewer to plan for retirement.
One really resonates with me because it echoes a true story we at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation tell a lot lately: people are living longer but retirement security isn't keeping pace. In the commercial, the narrator asks people to place a blue sticker along a timeline next to the age of the oldest person they've ever known. Not surprisingly, there are many dots ranging between 80 and 110. The spot closes with, "How do you make sure you have enough money to enjoy all of these years?"
Disclaimer: Neither the author nor PBGC endorses the products or services of the sponsor.
Since its inception in 1974, PBGC has been at the forefront of protecting the retirement security of the American people in defined-benefit pension plans offered by private companies. Now, most people probably don't know the agency exists, let alone think about us until the business they work for goes belly-up and they hear talk that the pension they've been looking forward to is about to evaporate.
Fortunately, PBGC does exist, and the safety net it provides allows most workers and retirees to keep the full promised benefit they've earned over many years.
Many companies still offer pensions — and with them, retirement income that you can't outlive. Generation Xers and Millennials with in-demand skills can target jobs with pension plans — but what's the fallback?
Too many don't know. If we filled a room with all of Generation X and Y, and then separated the room in half, less than half of the people on one side of the room would have made saving for their retirement a top priority, according to research from LIMRA, a research, consulting and professional development organization for insurance and financial services companies.
PBGC protects pensions. So, what is a pension? To most people, a pension is a retirement arrangement in which your employer promises you a regular payment from the day you retire, for as long as you live. The amount of your pension usually depends on how long you worked for an employer and your salary with that employer. Ask a retiree, "What is a pension?" and they may say,
"A pension is the $400 per month I receive for my many years of service at Acme Widgets. My pension helps to supplement the $600 per month I receive from Social Security and my retirement savings."
Normally, employees must work for an employer for a certain time period before the benefits they have earned belong to them. After they have done so, they are considered "vested" in those benefits. Today, in some pension plans, you are fully vested after five years on the job. In others, it takes you seven years to become fully vested - but you become vested in increasing portions of your benefit starting at three years. If you've worked for more than one company long enough to become vested in multiple pension plans, you can receive more than one pension payment.
Renting a new apartment? Buying a house? Applying for benefits from a government agency? If so, someone may ask you to prove your income.
If you get a retirement benefit from PBGC, we'll be happy to verify the amount you receive. Mail us your request in writing, and we'll send income verification to you or a third party (like a landlord or mortgage company).
To protect your privacy, we have to be sure you authorize us to send out this information. So you or the third party will have to follow a few simple steps. You can find complete instructions on our Income Verification Procedures webpage.
As the income tax deadline approaches, here is some important information about PBGC benefits and taxes.
While PBGC is required to withhold federal income tax, we do not withhold for state taxes. If your state has an income tax, you may owe tax on your PBGC benefit. To find out more, contact your state tax office (Excel file, 14.4 KB).
Also, if you receive a benefit from PBGC, we report the amount annually to the IRS.
For income tax purposes, each January PBGC sends you an IRS Form 1099-R that states the amount we paid you the previous year.
If you need a Form 1099-R for 2012 and haven't received it, PBGC will get you one.
The IRS has a tool, "Is My Pension or Annuity Payment Taxable?" that will help you determine if your pension or annuity payment from an employer-sponsored retirement plan is taxable.
There isn't any doubt that the economy has taken a big hit in recent years.
As the housing market begins to rebound and the stock market hits a new high, the percentage of Americans who are confident that they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement is the lowest it has been in 23 years.
According to the latest Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) only 13 percent were very confident of having a comfortable retirement, while 38 percent were somewhat confident, 21 percent not too confident, and 28 percent not at all confident.
Some of the biggest factors influencing the drop in confidence are high debt levels, and uncertainty about employment.
Read the 2013 EBRI Retirement Confidence Survey Results.