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Old 10-13-2011, 10:11 PM   #41
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donheff,
The pensions at my company were fully funded by earlier management, and then overfunded, because these funds were invested well. Our newer management saw this as a big nest egg that they wanted to get their hands on.

They closed down our defined benefits pensions, and cashed us out for what seemed like an illegally low amount, but they got away with it. I'm assuming after the payouts, the execs got a nice big bonus with our pension money.

I got $25K for 15 years in a pension. Only people over 50 were allowed to keep the pensions. My buddy kept his, and just retired early at 58 with about 25 years in the pension (he is getting $2K/month). That would compliment a retirement very nicely. I would have 23 years in the pension right now if it was still going.

My apologies for the whining. It does shock me that they could get away with this legally.


Take care,

JP
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Old 10-14-2011, 07:35 AM   #42
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What is amazing to me is that they have shifted the blame for our financial mess from the politicians and big-shots whose mismanagment got us into this mess, to the public service worker. One would think that some clerk at the Motor Vehicles department or a public school teacher has some secret power to bring down the entire economic system.
I don't blame any of the folks who received promises and had the rug pulled out from under them, whether gov't or corporate employees, as they are certainly entitled to gripe. However, I do blame the execs/officials who designed these plans to keep workers locked up for years thinking those benefits would be there for them, but did not understand the consequences down the road; and especially the ones that profited handsomely by taking away those benefits.

In corporate america, if you were management, you didn't have a union to back you up, so that made take backs very easy for corp execs. Most such take backs flew under the media radar without a lot of public outcry. Now that gov't workers are the target, I suspect they have a bit more clout and can make more noise, so if anything, thats probably why there is some efforts being made to push the blame or vilify them.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:20 AM   #43
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What is amazing to me is that they have shifted the blame for our financial mess from the politicians and big-shots whose mismanagment got us into this mess, to the public service worker. One would think that some clerk at the Motor Vehicles department or a public school teacher has some secret power to bring down the entire economic system.
Maybe I missed it if there was something in an earlier post, but what are you talking about?

Who is 'shifting the blame to the public service worker? From what I've read here, this book is about private pensions, and I have not seen (again, maybe I missed it), any blame being put on average public workers.

This seems to be a common straw-man argument to me - 'everybody is just picking on the little guy, so therefore their argument should be ignored'? Who is picking on the little guy?

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Old 10-14-2011, 09:24 AM   #44
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I think the blame is being shifted to public employees as well. We seem a convienent scapegoat. I search out and read any/all articles I can find on public employee compensation, pensions, etc, and things just don't look good in the court of public opinion.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:35 AM   #45
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What is amazing to me is that they have shifted the blame for our financial mess from the politicians and big-shots whose mismanagment got us into this mess, to the public service worker.
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Maybe I missed it if there was something in an earlier post, but what are you talking about?

Who is 'shifting the blame to the public service worker? From what I've read here, this book is about private pensions,...

Who is picking on the little guy?

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I think the blame is being shifted to public employees as well.
Come on ERD, don't take vague general "feeling" posts personally. These guys are talking about the atmosphere they perceive is swirling around them. If you wonder who is picking on the little guys, just turn on Fox News. As to your specifics about this thread, you are correct. The book is about private sector pensions and definitely blames the big guys, not the little guys.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:37 AM   #46
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donheff,
The pensions at my company were fully funded by earlier management, and then overfunded, because these funds were invested well. Our newer management saw this as a big nest egg that they wanted to get their hands on.

They closed down our defined benefits pensions, and cashed us out for what seemed like an illegally low amount, but they got away with it. I'm assuming after the payouts, the execs got a nice big bonus with our pension money.

I got $25K for 15 years in a pension. Only people over 50 were allowed to keep the pensions. My buddy kept his, and just retired early at 58 with about 25 years in the pension (he is getting $2K/month). That would compliment a retirement very nicely. I would have 23 years in the pension right now if it was still going.

My apologies for the whining. It does shock me that they could get away with this legally.


Take care,

JP

The problem with what you post is that there is not enough info to know if you got a low amount... what was the plan benefits? How old were you? What was your salary? What was the interest rate when they closed it down?

So, say you started at 18, worked 15 years... now 33... you get $25K of money that you can invest... you invest at 6% until you are 65... you now have about $171K.... you buy an annuity at todays rate and your pension is $1,032.... (this is the kind of math they can use... I just don't know the actual numbers)...

So it does not seem like it is that 'illegal low amount' you mentioned...

But, this shows the problem companies have with DB plans.... they have to put aside more and more the older you get and the more you make... so a small contribution when you are young becomes a big contribution when you are old.... this was another reason they fired older folks... they cost a lot more than younger ones....
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:51 AM   #47
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RE: 'blaming the average public worker'...
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Come on ERD, don't take vague general "feeling" posts personally. These guys are talking about the atmosphere they perceive is swirling around them. If you wonder who is picking on the little guys, just turn on Fox News.
I'm not really sure how to respond to this. For one, I don't have cable, so no access to cable Fox News (our over-the-air local Fox news does not seem all that political to me). I do listen to a fair amount (but not exclusively) of conservative radio, and I don't get that sense of 'blaming the little guy' at all, and they throw a lot of blame around! (as do their liberal counterparts).

If they are expressing their 'feelings' or 'perceptions' that they are a target - what is the source of that? How am I to take this, without some backup? Is there really any evidence that it is a wide spread belief held by a significant % of a cross section of America? Clearly, one can read the comments sections of any hot topic and see extreme points of view. And often, people filter those and remember the ones that they don't like. That doesn't make it a wide spread belief, any more than the earth is flat or men did not land on the moon, even though we can find people who hold that opinion too.

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Old 10-14-2011, 05:44 PM   #48
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When I start seeing references to Fox News in a thread, it's coming dangerously close to the precipice (and the Pig). It's sort of like our version of Godwin's Law, I think.

This has mostly been a good thread so far. Let's not derail it with blatant ideological and partisan sludge.
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Old 10-14-2011, 08:49 PM   #49
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ERD,
In 2008 and 2009 there was, IMHO, feeling among many that irresponsible and greedy people in certain investment and banking fields had brought our economic health to its knees. As a result of this irresponsible behavior, tax revenues are down. Now, they seem to be forgetting why tax revenues are down and are talking about excess public employee benefits and pensions as though the economic disaster of 2008 never occurred. My modest pension is not the reason my state is having financial problems. The reason is the poor economy caused by irresponsible elements in the financial industry. Read the book "All the Devils are Here".

After working over 20 years, putting in many extra hours, and CONTRIBUTING 6% OF MY OWN SALARY to my pension, I don't think the 30% pension I will be getting is excessive. Don't blame me for wanting to receive WHAT I HAVE EARNED. I CANNONT GO BACK IN TIME and do it over again.
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:49 PM   #50
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ERD,
In 2008 and 2009 there was, IMHO, feeling among many that irresponsible and greedy people in certain investment and banking fields had brought our economic health to its knees. As a result of this irresponsible behavior, tax revenues are down. Now, they seem to be forgetting why tax revenues are down and are talking about excess public employee benefits and pensions as though the economic disaster of 2008 never occurred. My modest pension is not the reason my state is having financial problems. The reason is the poor economy caused by irresponsible elements in the financial industry. Read the book "All the Devils are Here".

.
There is plenty of blame to go around for the financial crisis. Certainly Wall St deserve a lion share. But every one of the 10 millions of American who signed a mortgage application under penalty of perjury, who lied about their income or assets deserves some of the blame. As did the mortgage brokers and realtor who encouraged it. Investor like myself who blind chased yield, without thinking about the risk involved we are guilty also. Yes public employee who push for every increasing pension benefits despite being told their plans were underfunded, they deserve some of the blame also.

Americans as society consumed too much and saved too little. To a very large extent the people who are both the victims and culprits of this crisis stare back at us every time we look in mirror.
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Old 10-14-2011, 11:17 PM   #51
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Yes public employee who push for every increasing pension benefits despite being told their plans were underfunded, they deserve some of the blame also.
This is totally wrong. It's not the responsibility of employees to provide the pension benefits they were promised. And besides, your group of public employees who are told their plans are underfunded and yet who "push" for increased benefits is totally imaginary, so far as I know. My pension benefits were set out in the employees' handbook when I was hired in 1971, and Hawaii's state pension fund was fully funded for decades after that, when a future legislature decided it would defer payments into the fund matching those I made from my salary. Was I suppose to exercise my clairvoyance when I was first offered the job and ask, hey guys, can you prove you will always fund this pension you've contracted for? What silliness.
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Old 10-14-2011, 11:48 PM   #52
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Link please to when it was fully funded? It certainly was not in the late 90s when I move here.

Also I bet if you compared the retirements you were promised back in 1971 (today it is pretty clear increase. One simple example your retirements back in 71 was 1.25%/year service today it is 2%/year. I realize that the increase required employee contributions but there weren't enough to support people retiring at 55 with 25 years service. I suspect that 2.5% automatic increase regardless of inflation was not part of the pension that existed back in 1971.

Don't get me started on the host of medical benefits that weren't available back in 1971. You could get hip or knee replacements back then but no way in hell insurance was going to pay for it. Now days I am sure the state springs for these all the time.
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Old 10-15-2011, 08:52 AM   #53
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Yes public employee who push for every increasing pension benefits despite being told their plans were underfunded, they deserve some of the blame also.
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This is totally wrong. It's not the responsibility of employees to provide the pension benefits they were promised. .... Was I suppose to exercise my clairvoyance when I was first offered the job and ask, hey guys, can you prove you will always fund this pension you've contracted for?
I somewhat agree with GregLee on this. On the list of those who 'share the blame', I put the employees far down on the list. Ahead of them are the politicians who agreed to the benefits w/o proper funding, and at the top of the list, IMO, are the Union leaders, who negotiated for the benefits with full awareness that the funding was not adequate, and yet go back to their rank and file and tell them what a great job they did in getting these benefits. And kick the can down the road. And probably get out the vote for the politicians they 'negotiate' with.

It's as if I agreed to sell your car on commission, got you a 'great' price, took my 10% from you while all the while I knew full well the buyer was handing you a forged check.

But employees (public and private) do need to wake up and look at the funding. DD is now an IL municipal employee, and I'm making her aware of just how poorly funded her pension is. I agree that most new employees probably would not be looking at this, but as time goes on it sure should be on their radar. They need to start making waves about it. They are the ones most directly affected - do something!


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ERD,
In 2008 and 2009 there was, IMHO, feeling among many that irresponsible and greedy people ....
Thanks for the reply, but I don't see where you answered my question ("Who is 'shifting the blame to the public service worker?") - you just deflected it.


Quote:
After working over 20 years, putting in many extra hours, and CONTRIBUTING 6% OF MY OWN SALARY to my pension, I don't think the 30% pension I will be getting is excessive. Don't blame me for wanting to receive WHAT I HAVE EARNED. I CANNONT GO BACK IN TIME and do it over again.
First, this is mostly a red-herring ( a common one at that). I've seen very little talk and very close to zero actual action taken towards making any changes to what is already earned. In fact, it is prohibited by the State Constitution here in IL. Some are trying to interpret that as 'no future changes to the plan (like employee contribution %) at any time during their entire career'. So no, I am not blaming you for wanting to keep what you already earned. But ask the employees of UAL, if the fund goes dry - what is to be done? If that happened to me, I'd be plenty mad at those Union leaders I mentioned above that negotiated the contracts w/o also negotiating full funding. I'd protest if I could find a good street for it.

I have no idea if your pension is generous or not compared to the average private worker (not that it is that important, if it was part of the contract, you should get it). But if that 30% is COLAd, and if it is available at 55 YO, that changes the value of that number from what most private employees were getting. Mine is actually closer to 40% for 28 years, (and I doubt you would want to compare the hours put in over that time), so let's say 40% * 20/28 ~ 30%; but.... not COLA'd, so that effectively cuts the value in half, and if I took it at 55 YO, that cuts mine in half again, to 7.5%. Or, looking the the way - yours doubles 2 times to 120% compared to my 30%. Wanna trade? Devil's in the details.

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Old 10-15-2011, 09:30 AM   #54
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This is totally wrong. It's not the responsibility of employees to provide the pension benefits they were promised. ... Was I suppose to exercise my clairvoyance when I was first offered the job and ask, hey guys, can you prove you will always fund this pension you've contracted for? What silliness.
Well, let's look at it from another viewpoint, the taxpayer.

You seem to think it is unreasonable for the recipient of the pension (the one most directly affected) to be reviewing the funding of said pension, and should just expect to get it, no matter any external events. OK, but...

then the taxpayer (further removed from this issue) should fully expect that the taxes that they paid each year fully funded the pension in that year, and should cover it, no matter any external events.

So we have one group with somewhat reasonable expectations that no cuts should be made to their benefits, and another group with somewhat reasonable expectations that they shouldn't have their bills increased after-the-fact (or more apples-to-apples, we could call this a 'benefit cut' since a tax increase is money out of their pocket).

Something's got to give, no?

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Old 10-15-2011, 09:42 AM   #55
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On an individual level, perhaps the taxpayer might have the expectation that his or her taxes are sufficient to pay the bills. But let's be realistic here; every year that the state did not make an adequate contribution to keep the state employee pension plan properly funded, the taxpayers as a group received a tax cut -- their taxes should have been higher to cover the state's legitimate bills that year. It is unfair now to say, in effect, "I'll keep all those prior tax cuts, thank you, and that's just too bad for you, state employee".
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Old 10-15-2011, 09:42 AM   #56
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Well, let's look at it from another viewpoint, the taxpayer.

You seem to think it is unreasonable for the recipient of the pension (the one most directly affected) to be reviewing the funding of said pension, and should just expect to get it, no matter any external events. OK, but...

then the taxpayer (further removed from this issue) should fully expect that the taxes that they paid each year fully funded the pension in that year, and should cover it, no matter any external events.

So we have one group with somewhat reasonable expectations that no cuts should be made to their benefits, and another group with somewhat reasonable expectations that they shouldn't have their bills increased after-the-fact (or more apples-to-apples, we could call this a 'benefit cut' since a tax increase is money out of their pocket).

Something's got to give, no?

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I'm not sure I buy the taxpayer was deceived argument. The politicians and government managers that allowed the excesses are in effect an extension of the taxpayer. In other words, our government is us. Only we can force changes in government. And we taxpayers are on the hook for anything we let our Government do, plain and simple. As a taxpayer, the public employee is also on the hook but I don't see why he should be more on the hook than the rest of us. They can vote but many public employees can't actively participate in the electoral process to change the cast of characters.

Edit: I don't mean this to imply that no changes can be made to public pension systems, they can and must.
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Old 10-15-2011, 09:43 AM   #57
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Link please to when it was fully funded? It certainly was not in the late 90s when I move here.
Shouldn't you be providing some references for your many assertions of fact about funding and benefits? How do you know the Hawaii Employment Retirement System (HERS) was not fully funded in the late 90s? George Berish says it was. At the end of his article linked below, his qualifications are listed:
Quote:
George Berish is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, served on the SOA's examination subcommittee for Modern Portfolio Theory, and served as actuary to many of Hawaii's largest retirement plans, and for several U.S. model Social Security Systems, and Government Retirement System of West Pacific nations (formerly Trust Territories).
Before he retired in 2002, he was manager of Buck Consultants' Honolulu office. He has closely studied the HERS since he was commissioned by the State in the 80's to audit the work of HERS board's actuary. In 2002, he was engaged as the State's expert witness to defend Hawaii's taxpayers against a HERS/union member suit alleging "skimming" and "actuarial unsoundness" -- subsequently dismissed.
Here is a diagram provided by Berish outlining the recent status of assets and liabilities of the HERS:



Note that in 2000, the HERS was fully funded. Berish's article (one of a series on the HERS) is here: Honolulu Civil Beat - Hawaii's Retirement System
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Old 10-15-2011, 09:50 AM   #58
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On an individual level, perhaps the taxpayer might have the expectation that his or her taxes are sufficient to pay the bills. But let's be realistic here; every year that the state did not make an adequate contribution to keep the state employee pension plan properly funded, the taxpayers as a group received a tax cut -- their taxes should have been higher to cover the state's legitimate bills that year. It is unfair now to say, in effect, "I'll keep all those prior tax cuts, thank you, and that's just too bad for you, state employee".
+1 Said it better than I could.
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Old 10-15-2011, 09:53 AM   #59
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On an individual level, perhaps the taxpayer might have the expectation that his or her taxes are sufficient to pay the bills. But let's be realistic here; every year that the state did not make an adequate contribution to keep the state employee pension plan properly funded, the taxpayers as a group received a tax cut -- their taxes should have been higher to cover the state's legitimate bills that year. It is unfair now to say, in effect, "I'll keep all those prior tax cuts, thank you, and that's just too bad for you, state employee".
That's one way to view it. Another would be (paraphrasing you) that the public employees contribution should have been higher to fully fund the pension, and that they were effectively getting a pay raise w/o that contribution. It is unfair now to say, in effect, "I'll keep all those prior contributions I could have made to fund the pension thank you, and that's just too bad for you, state taxpayer".

I'm not saying one view is really more correct than the other, but I do lean towards the idea that it was the public employees pension, they were closer to the issue and have more responsibility than the average taxpayer with their own retirement issues to worry about.

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I'm not sure I buy the taxpayer was deceived argument. The politicians and government managers that allowed the excesses are in effect an extension of the taxpayer. In other words, our government is us. Only we can force changes in government. And we taxpayers are on the hook for anything we let our Government do, plain and simple. As a taxpayer, the public employee is also on the hook but I don't see why he should be more on the hook than the rest of us. They can vote but many public employees can't actively participate in the electoral process to change the cast of characters.
I agree to a point - but the public workers had an extra level of representation there with their Union leaders. Add to that the fact that the Unions contribute to the politicians campaigns and get out the vote for them and I'd say it is clear that the deck is/was stacked in favor of the public employee compared to the average taxpayer, and hence the public employee should take more of the responsibility.


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Old 10-15-2011, 09:53 AM   #60
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Ahead of them are the politicians who agreed to the benefits w/o proper funding, and at the top of the list, IMO, are the Union leaders, who negotiated for the benefits with full awareness that the funding was not adequate, and yet go back to their rank and file and tell them what a great job they did in getting these benefits. And kick the can down the road. And probably get out the vote for the politicians they 'negotiate' with.

-ERD50
So the employee representative is more in the wrong for asking than the elected or appointed leader is for approving? Sorry. The Governor, Mayor or City Council member is in charge, and they are well supported by auditors and financial professionals. When they commit to spending of any type that is not properly funded they are being duplicitous.

Employees and their unions are just one of many constituents that benefit from the City or State largess. Contracts to businesses, tax breaks, zoning exceptions are among the many actions that the politicians engage in, along with salary and pension, that lead inadequate public finances. To condemn one and not the others is not objective.

The elected political leadership is absolutely responsible for lousy public finances, followed by the unquestioning electorate.
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