Pension and other retiree benefits for state and local government employees represent liabilities for state and local governments and ultimately a burden for state and local taxpayers. Since 1986, accounting standards have required state and local governments to report their unfunded pension liabilities. Recently, however, standards changed and now call for governments also to report retiree health liabilities.
From the abstract:
A great way to assess how well adults have accumulated wealth is to look at their finances in the years shortly before they retire. We show wealth among households with an adult age 57-61 in 2004, using the Health and Retirement Study. This wealth snapshot highlights the extraordinary importance of Social Security, traditional pensions, and owner-occupied housing for typical near-retiree households today, which together comprise nearly four-fifths of wealth for middle quintile households on the verge of retirement.
The shifting pension landscape raises questions about the financial security of future retirees. About one-half of private-sector workers are not covered by employer-sponsored pension plans on their current job. Many private-sector employers have replaced traditional pensions with 401(k)-type plans, which protect benefits for workers who change jobs frequently but expose participants to investment risks. This primer describes pensions, workers with coverage, and related policy issues.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
From the press release:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)…announced the publication of a final rule allowing employers that provide retiree health benefits to continue the longstanding practice of coordinating those benefits with Medicare (or comparable state health benefits) without violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The regulation, which safeguards retiree health benefits, was published in the December 26, 2007 Federal Register.
Source: Government Accountability Office
Over the last 25 years, pension coverage has shifted primarily from “traditional” defined benefit (DB) plans, in which workers accrue benefits based on years of service and earnings, toward defined contribution (DC) plans, in which participants accumulate retirement balances in individual accounts. DC plans provide greater portability of benefits, but shift the responsibility of saving for retirement from employers to employees. This report addresses the following issues: (1) What percentage of workers participate in DC plans, and how much have they saved in them? (2) How much are workers likely to have saved in DC plans over their careers and to what degree do key individual decisions and plan features affect plan saving? (3) What options have been recently proposed to increase DC plan coverage, participation, and savings? GAO analyzed data from the Federal Reserve Board’s 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the latest available, utilized a computer simulation model to project DC plan balances at retirement, reviewed academic studies, and interviewed experts.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) today announced a new interactive Web tool to serve as a resource for employers in complying with federal employee benefit laws. The ERISA Fiduciary Advisor is designed to help employers and others who provide services to private sector retirement plans understand their responsibilities. The advisor provides an overview of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), including the most common mistakes EBSA finds in its investigations, and provides links to additional information as well as tools to assist plan officials. Strong fiduciary oversight and compliance assistance are both high priorities for EBSA.
As the members of the “baby boom” generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) approach retirement, the demographic profile of the U.S. workforce will undergo a substantial shift: a large number of older workers will be joined by relatively few new entrants to the labor force. According to the Census Bureau, while the number of people between the ages of 55 and 64 will grow by about 11 million between 2005 and 2025, the number of people who are 25 to 54 years old will grow by only 5 million. This trend could affect economic growth because labor force participation begins to fall after age 55. In 2006, 91% of men and 76% of women aged 25 to 54 participated in the labor force. In contrast, just 70% of men and 58% of women aged 55 to 64 were either working or looking for work in 2006.
From the summary:
Pension plan sponsors in the US have had time to consider the effects of the recent pension reform legislation on their DB plans. This article examines whether they like what they are seeing, and whether a trend is emerging for dealing with the consequences of these new laws.
A new regulation forces government retirement plans to reveal the cost of their health-benefit promises for the first time.
…State and local governments aren’t required to set aside money to meet future promises other than for retiree pensions. Most pay what they owe each year out of their current budget. But starting this year, government retirement plans must at least account for their long-term health care and other benefits liabilities (known as OPEB, or other post-employment benefits) and publish the calculations.
From press release:
As an increasing percentage of older Americans are in the labor force, the trend toward more full-time, full-year work among older workers occurs across virtually every demographic group, according to an article published today by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).
These trends mark a significant change in behavior for individuals age 55 and older, the article says, and are likely driven by their need to obtain affordable employment-based health insurance (as opposed to unaffordable or unavailable coverage in the individual market) and the need to continue to accumulate savings in employment-based defined contribution retirement plans.