By Emily Gilbert
It can be hard to keep up with the news, especially during the holiday season. Here’s a roundup of some of the best retirement news articles we’ve seen over the past month:
For American Workers, 4 Key Retirement Issues to Watch in 2019 (The New York Times)
New York Times reporter Mark Miller highlights four important retirement issues to pay attention to in 2019, including savings plans, protecting investors from conflicting advice, expanding Social Security, and finding a solution to the multiemployer plan crisis. More than one million workers and retirees are in multiemployer pension plans that are underfunded and at risk of insolvency. Congress formed the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans in 2018, but the committee was unable to come up with a solution. PRC’s EVP Karen Friedman says in the article that we hope that in 2019 Congress can find a fair solution that can save these underfunded plans and the PBGC, and protect workers and retirees.
After taking over the venerable grocery chain Marsh Supermarkets, which began operating in 1931, the private equity firm Sun Capital Partners used federal bankruptcy courts to unload the supermarket chain of more than $80 million in pension obligations to company employees and then closed all of the chain’s stores, all the while procuring a tidy profit for Sun Capital, the Washington Post reported. Private equity firms, like Sun Capital, have frequently used bankruptcy law to relieve the companies they own of pension depts, leaving employees and retirees at risk of not receiving the full pensions they were promised and burdening the federal pension insurer (the PBGC) with covering a portion of these benefits. Marsh was part of the Central States pension fund, which covers over 400,000 workers and retirees. Sun Capital’s use of federal bankruptcy law to skirt the supermarket chain’s pension obligations has contributed to the fund’s dire financial condition and its spiral to insolvency that is expected sometime before 2026. Central States estimates that $1.5 billion of its pension deficit is the result of bankruptcies from companies owned by private equity firms.
Pension risk transfers (PRT), where employers unload their pension liabilities to insurance companies, are becoming increasingly common and raise issues for retirees, Bloomberg BNA reports. Among those issues are decisions on whether to take lump sum distribution offers and the need to face the potential consequences of losing federal law protections under ERISA, said PRC’s EVP Karen Friedman and Senior Policy Advisor Norman Stein, who are both featured in the article.
Read our fact sheets about pension risk transfers:
Companies that have transferred pensions to insurance companies
What happens when a pension is transferred to an insurance company?
An analysis from the Urban Institute and ProPublica shows that many older U.S. workers are being forced into early retirement and pushed out of longtime jobs, resulting in significant financial hardship. The article tells the stories of multiple people who lost or left their jobs in their 50’s and have either not found steady work or have taken significant pay cuts. Even though the Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it illegal for employers to treat older employees differently from younger ones, the analysis found that a majority of new retirees felt forced into early retirement. It also found that many older workers who have lost one job go on to lose two or more jobs.