Monday, May 4, 2009

Pension letter leaves confusion, ??

I received the following comment. I too, received the retirement letter today and wondered what it all meant:

"Hi Jim,I've been lurking for a long time, reading your blog.

Thanks for being the consummate news man.

I got the Booth letter about our pensions. I have always known my Advance pension would be pitiful, if indeed, it will even exist by the time I can draw on it.

It says Booth is giving the plan up to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC).

In 2008, the fund was 81% funded and less in 2007.

The only way a company can terminate a single employer defined pension plan is that it is fully funded or it can show the PBGC that it can pay the money owed to all participants -- or through "distressed termination."

However, the employer must prove to a bankruptcy court or the PBGC that the company can't stay in business unless the pension plan is terminated.

I now will have to wait to get my measly Booth pension until I am 62 or 65; I was going to draw at 55.

I hope I am reading it wrong, but we've never received notice from the PBGC before. I called the PBGC, which indicates our plan is not yet managed by them. Guess I'll start calling tomorrow."

End comment.

If the lump sum payout was large enough, I'd jump at the chance to take a lump sum payment that I could invest and draw off rather than worry annually about the health of my pension. In fact, when I retired I asked personnel if I could just take a lump sum payment and was told that option was no longer available.

I'd welcome anyone who has, or gets, more information on the letter.


Anonymous said...

What DOES it say? I can't make it out. Written by lawyers, fer sure.

I'm not sure it says its terminating, although it certainly appears that way.

Interesting that the action is apparently retroactive to last year, isn't it?

As to a lump sum, I was told they don't do it, Jim. I asked too.

I think we should all start calling Arthur Silverstein, 718.816.3158, and Michael Ply, 616.222.5444, starting about 7:30 a.m. tomorrow to ask them what this means.

A registered letter or two probably won't hurt either.

Hey, there is this: Don and Si are like 38 and 39 on the Forbes richest list. This market has had to have hurt them, too. And that $100 million in flopped Portfolio magazine can't have helped.

I feel so much better knowing we're all in this together, with Don and Si.

Anonymous said...

From the PBGC:

How you will know if your plan is ending

If your employer wants to end the plan, your plan administrator must notify you in writing that your plan is ending. You must get this notice, called the Notice of Intent to Terminate, at least 60 days before the "termination" date. If PBGC is terminating the plan, we notify the plan administrator and often publish a notice about our action in local and national newspapers.

In a standard termination, you should receive a second letter describing the benefits you will receive, called the Notice of Plan Benefits, generally no later than six months after the date proposed for your plan’s termination.

Still, no where does the letter clearly state that the plan IS ending. I mean, come on. Say so. It's implied, but not stated.

These are the kinds of lawyered-up documents that reporters make fun of, and write stories about ...

Anonymous said...

Freeze Vs. Termination
A pension freeze is different from a pension termination. In a termination, a company must pay out all benefits as soon as administratively feasible, usually no longer than one year after the termination date. Distributions can be made as a lump sum, if permitted under the plan, or by buying employees an annuity that pays benefits over time. Companies in bankruptcy may transfer their pension liabilities to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), a federal government agency that insures pension plans. (For more on the PBGC, see The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Rescues Plans and Lump Sum Versus Regular Pension Payments.)

Man, if we can get a lump sum ... take the money and run.

Anonymous said...

They hope you will die before you see any of it.

Anonymous said...


Just talked to Mike Ply. (Thanks, anonymous for the phone number, I left my letter at home.)

Nice guy. Very helpful. Answered my questions directly and succinctly.

The plan is NOT being terminated. (It IS being frozen.) This is new paperwork the government requires. The paperwork must outline what COULD happen, not what WILL happen.

The plan stands, he said. It is continuing to be funded, he said. It is not being terminated, he said. This is not a termination letter, he said.

He said we can expect the more "normal" 5500 form, etc, in the fall.

From my past knowledge, 81 percent funding isn't the greatest, but as he pointed out with a rueful chuckle, it is better than most of our 4019(k)s are doing.

Hope this helps.

Todd Seibt