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Old 02-27-2014, 07:54 AM   #21
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I think a lot of the hostility towards public pensions are on the State level. Taking the case of Illinois for example. The public unions helped vote in [MOD EDIT] politicians who upped pension/retirement benefits and put laws on the books preventing the reduction of benefits. Those same politicians then either did not increase taxes to ensure the funding was adequate or in many instances just didn't put in contributions at all since the market was "doing so well we can just make up any shortfalls later". During this whole time the unions did nothing to force the state to fund the plan despite the stories and warnings coming out for YEARS that the plan was underfunded. Fast forward to today and Illinois has something like 40% of what it needs for the pensions and the talk of what it will take to fix it is coming up. The only plan the unions have offered is across the board tax hikes and immediately filed lawsuits to prevent the proposed benefit reductions from going into effect (from what I could tell they would mostly be changes going forward?). Throw in the news looking for poster child cases of individuals contributing something like 1% towards their retirement for 5-10 years only and you've got an easy case of the media painting a monster out of a group of people who almost entirely are just hard working citizens caught between a rock and a hard place.

Long story short, I think a lot of the hostility comes from unions voting in guys who promised lots of benefits but then the unions did nothing when the funding alarm bells started going off. Now that many entities are entering crisis mode the general population will not tolerate a 50-100% increase in taxes to fund the shortfalls that the unions are saying is the only answer. Not trying to be political or anything, but that's just how the news seems to "present" the case whenever I see it on TV.


Personally I have no qualm towards people with pensions. As someone just starting out in the workforce I do not have a pension. Since megacorp is in the process of phasing out the pension and on somewhat of a hiring freeze I am one of the few people in the organization who is not currently in the pension plan. I am envious of those who have that safer form of retirement income than I will, but I'm planning retirement around not having a pension to cover those risks as best I can. I also don't blame anyone taking a job, especially if it has lower pay, in order to get a pension. If the job was offered as is to me starting out, I would want everything I was promised too.
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Old 02-27-2014, 07:55 AM   #22
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My non-scientific impression is that a majority of people here have pensions.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:04 AM   #23
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I question whether or not the divergence between public pension costs and flat privater sector wages (and tax revenue) is sustainable and I wonder if changes to some relatively unstable pension plans may be needed for the future. Just the same, in your world would that be "pension hating", even if I have never suggested (or advocated) that anyone who has been playing by the rules and is already in the system have their benefits cut?

Just trying to see where your definition of "pension hating" is.

I'd also add that everyone should try to take a breath and look at it from the other person's shoes. If you are a so-called "pension hater" do you think it's right that someone spend 20, 30, even 40 years or more in a job, possibly earning below-market salaries for much of it, and tell them just before they reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that they signed up for is being looted and they won't get a lot of it?

If you dismiss all the concerns of those who don't get pensions, do you not see how someone can see their own pensions taken away, their wages flat for many years, only to be asked to pay more and more taxes to shore up someone else's benefits when you get nothing? And seeing governments want to make pensioners whole but not care about pensionless people with battered 401K plans? (Yes, even if you pay into your plans, in some states if the pension plan struggles, the taxpayer may have to ante up.)

And instead of working through the problem, we (in the "new media" tradition) immediately resort to pointing fingers and blaming each other.

This is another example, IMO, of economic elites using wedge issues to divide and conquer the working class -- getting us too hateful and resentful of other ordinary people in order to prevent us from seeing -- together -- what said economic elites are doing to the working class overall, and uniting to reverse it.

[PS -- if you think it's bad now, you should have looked back to 2008-09 when everyone who didn't have a pension saw their 401Ks become 201Ks, and many states and cities were talking about drastic measures with tax money and tax policy in order to shore up pensions.]
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:06 AM   #24
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While I don't think it's what I would call significant hostility, I have definitely noticed a certain amount of dislike of public pensions. Jealousy might not be the correct word, but if does feel like some people are jealous of others with healthy pensions. Those people seem to forget about the perks that they may have experienced that a public employee would never dream of. I've seen plenty of discussions of signing bonuses, yearly bonuses, changing employers when fed up, opportunity to move across the country and other things that people with public pensions couldn't fathom. Everything in life has trade offs and pros and cons. I try not to be jealous of what other people have and enjoy what I have.

Lastly, I don't consider myself "lucky" to have a pension. I chose my career after carfeul consideration of the benefits that I would get and sacrifices I would have to make. There was no luck involved.

Edit: In regards to Ziggy's point about it being worse back in 2008-2009, hes definitely right. There was much more hostility towards pensions on this forum back then, which actually helps make my point that people are jealous. When people's 401ks got crushed, a lot of them were ticked off at people with secure pensions. Now that their 401ks have recovered, there is much less talk here about the evil public pensions.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:11 AM   #25
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As a pension holder I have never perceived any hostility on this forum.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:11 AM   #26
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I'd also add that many pension plans have been responsibly run and have not encountered a massive financial crisis, even in the crash of 2008-09. Why don't we hear about these? Because they don't create controversy and division, and today's media are ALL about creating controversy and division.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:13 AM   #27
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As a pension holder I have never perceived any hostility on this forum.
In fairness, if you were here five years ago, with the Dow down to around 7,000 and there was a lot of talk about state and local governments propping up pensions while 401Ks were in a free fall, you would have.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:30 AM   #28
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I've only been on this forum a few months, but just wanted to say the discourse here is WAY more civil than most others.

Good points above. I certainly don't hate on public pensioners. I have two daughters entering the work force. They know decisions have to be made between salary, health benefits, education reimbursement, pensions, 401k, any many other definitions of compensation.

Agree that many public workers worked for lower salary for decades because government jobs had good pensions, or good time off, or whatever. The ultimate case may be military. Annoys me when people question retired military benefits. They were promised an early pension in exchange for defending us!
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:30 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by jon-nyc View Post
My non-scientific impression is that a majority of people here have pensions.
Probably poorly constructed and over 4 years old now, but an attempt to quantify http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...ire-46680.html.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:41 AM   #30
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I haven't noticed it too much here either but the real issue for most isn't that public employees have pensions.

The main issue is the threat that taxes may have to increase to pay for the guarantee that is provided. In essence, some people will have a lowered standard of living through higher taxes in order to pay for the promises made by politicians to public unions. That seems like a pretty natural and fair response based on human nature.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:44 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by linny727 View Post
This forum is usually respectful to everyone, however, when the topic of public pensions come up, there are nasty folks that have to weigh in.

You do not pay for my pension. I paid for my pension, the City I worked for contributed to my pension and 75% percent of the rest is investments that the pension services makes. Did you want to make the pitiful income I made for 25 years, unable to buy a house or have extra money for investments?

I don't begrudge you your million here and your property there. I applaud you.

This why people with pensions keep their mouths shut on this forum or leave it.
I've mentioned a pension in most every financial thread and never perceived any push back. Some say "I wouldn't count on it being there", but that's prudent given what's happened in Detroit and other locales.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:45 AM   #32
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OP - I suspect you are over sensitive on the topic. I have a Federal pension and have posted in numerous threads on pensions. I have not sensed significant hostility to pensioners. The main differences focus on appropriate steps to resolve underfunding of public pensions. From a public pensioner's perspective some of those posts seem insensitive to the financial sacrifices we made based on the promise of future rewards. On the other hand, many of us pensioners at times seem insensitive to the implicit promises of financial responsibility made to the taxpayers who we expect to pay for our pensions. I am more comfortable discussing pension issues here than I would be at most online forums.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:54 AM   #33
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I don't have a problem with public pensions.

I have a problem with public employees that spike their last year of service with huge amounts of overtime, vacation time, accrued sick time, and then that one year becomes the basis for a lifetime of payouts.

I have a problem with public employees who "retire" but then continue working the exact same job, now collecting a pension plus their paychecks. Double dipping.

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Looking Twice at Pension Double-Dipping
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:57 AM   #34
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I suspect if there is any hostility on this forum toward public pensions, it would be aimed at the governments that designed and administered unsustainable plans that created huge unfunded obligations. To this end, as a tax payer, I wouldn't want to be on the hook to be the sole remedy for such situations. That said, I do not begrudge anyone who has a pension, public or private. DW will have a non-cola when she turns 65 and when I left my mega-corp, I had the option of pension (annuity) or lump sum. I took the lump sum because I did not trust mega-corp to make good on the pension option as that option would not have been covered 100% by the PBGC in the event of mega-corp defaulting.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:58 AM   #35
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I don't have a problem with public pensions.

I have a problem with public employees that spike their last year of service with huge amounts of overtime, vacation time, accrued sick time, and then that one year becomes the basis for a lifetime of payouts.
I believe even most "advocates" or "defenders" of DB pensions would agree this is an abuse and should be greatly curtailed, if not banned completely. It is utterly absurd that some people can bring home an annual pension that exceeds even the highest salary they ever earned in their lifetime. However, it's also the case that the outraged media types and bloggers are going to make this practice look a lot more common and egregious than it usually is in real life.

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I have a problem with public employees who "retire" but then continue working the exact same job, now collecting a pension plus their paychecks. Double dipping.
It feels like cheating in a sense, but to the taxpayer it's really not much different than if this person didn't retire. They are no longer accruing pension benefits, and had they left, they'd be paying someone else's salary AND pension benefits. So I'm really not sure in terms of hit to the taxpayer, this is really a problem -- at least not if the actuarial payouts are sound. This leaves them, an extra worker who is not receiving pension benefits as part of their current compensation.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:09 AM   #36
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I love pensions. I wish I had one. When I was involved in a system where a pension was promised, those promises were later revised so I got nothing, although some people in power managed to end up with a lot.

I do see lots of news (and hear lots of stories) of pension systems that are underfunded or abused by spiking and cronyism as insiders adjust their earnings to take maximum advantage of rules that were poorly written (perhaps deliberately). That I hate. Just as I hate the fact that Social Security is headed for insolvency, has been for years, and we haven't fixed that yet. I don't have people who have pensions, nor people who have social security benefits. I do hate systems that are broken or corrupt.

As for getting a vibe of hate, or being unwelcoming, that is a different issue entirely. I think the moderators do a pretty good job here and I've very grateful and appreciative of the civil discourse they are usually able to maintain. I like to think I (and the vast majority of posters) keep our discussions civil, occasionally irreverent, even on topics we care strongly about.

I'm not sure what prompted the original post in this thread that people with pensions feel unwelcome. I didn't get that impression, but maybe not having a pension perhaps I am de-sensitized to the issue. I hope we can be a more welcoming and inclusive community where that isn't an issue.

And lastly, I will admit to a fair bit of jealousy when people post questions like "I have a nest egg almost as big as yours, can I retire? Oh, and I should mention I also have a pension that covers 120% of my expenses" YES, YES, YES, you should retire. I wish I was in your situation. You'd see a great blur as I left my work so fast.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:12 AM   #37
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I also feel that donheff summarized it very well, from both views in post #20.

What I 'dislike' (hate is too strong), is when a poster comes in with some preconceived idea that their views will be automatically shot down. I think we occasionally see a poster say something like "This board is all about DIY, (or passive index funds, or Buy & Hold), so of course no one will listen to anything contrary (using an FA, active funds, market timing)". Well, I don't think that is the case - mostly people ask for data to back up the claim so it can be openly and intelligently discussed. But sometimes the poster comes out preemptively painting themselves as a victim, before a single response is made! Maybe the OP did not intend that, but it may come across that way to some of us.

OK, in a way that I think the OP did not intend, I will admit that I "hate" pensions (public and private). I hate them, because they are promises made today, by people not on the hook to fulfill those promises when they come due. As we have evidenced, that can be a recipe for disaster. At a minimum, it simply isn't prudent. I would much rather have some form of pay-as-you-go system for retirement benefits. Keep it transparent, keep it 'real time'.

I can think of one area that brings up some hostility though. Sometimes a public pensioner will really wave the flag that they earned these benefits and that they are 'sacred', and no one should be discussing cuts to them. OK, I understand the feeling, but I can't recall seeing any acknowledgment from them that those in the private are subject to limits on their pension benefits if their company goes bust (covered by the PBGC, which we paid into). So yes, it might get a little hostile when they claim their benefits are sacred, but mine aren't, and they need to raise my taxes to pay their benefits. None of that would be a problem if taxes were collected this year to pay benefits this year, with no future promises.

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Old 02-27-2014, 09:40 AM   #38
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I think that part of the problem may be the many abuses of the public pensions that you see in a place like Illinois. First, public workers may have been underpaid in the past but that often is not the case today, especially in large metropolitan areas. Teachers making $100,000 and up and grade school principals make $150,000 and up. Other city and state workers often make more than $100,000 and much more than would paid by a private corporation for the same work. That results in very generous pensions, as long as taxpayers continue to foot the bill. The result in Illinois, Detroit and many other areas are essentially bankrupt pension funds. That coupled with the common tactic in Illinois to award a politically connected public employee in the last few weeks or months with a huge pay/position upgrade just so there is a great enhancement to the pension received results in the tax paying public being really hacked off. Couple that with the huge impact public unions have on elections and the amount of union dues that are spent supporting candidates who then, when elected, negotiated unaffordable contracts with the unions and many have had enough. I know that isn't the situation in every state and in every location within a state. But it is the big states and big cities that get the publicity that drives public opinion. That on top of seeing the complaints public unions have raised the past few years in the face of huge layoffs and cutbacks by corporations results in some lashing out at any public worker. Its unfair but life is unfair. In the end, you cannot let other people and their comments dictate your happiness - enjoy your pension and your life and don't worry about what someone else thinks. I have no doubt that you have earned that.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:59 AM   #39
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OP - I suspect you are over sensitive on the topic. I have a Federal pension and have posted in numerous threads on pensions. I have not sensed significant hostility to pensioners. The main differences focus on appropriate steps to resolve underfunding of public pensions. From a public pensioner's perspective some of those posts seem insensitive to the financial sacrifices we made based on the promise of future rewards. On the other hand, many of us pensioners at times seem insensitive to the implicit promises of financial responsibility made to the taxpayers who we expect to pay for our pensions. I am more comfortable discussing pension issues here than I would be at most online forums.
When I was at NASA, I would periodically hear some civil servants whinning (SP?) about how much more they could make in private industry and how looooong they had to work to get their COLA'd pension (age 55). I realize newer hires have less generous terms.

I was a contractor with marginal benefits and was making about half of my prior job but not much different than what I'd have paid someone to do what I was doing at NASA. IMHO, most of the CS people I interacted with were glorified paper pushers that would probably not be anywhere near the pay their GS levels were paying. There were also way more of them than any private company would have had for the tasks before them. Some worked separate jobs out of the NASA office.

I can't specifically comment on your actual position and compensation but the data says that government employees are not systemically underpaid when compared to equivalent private sector positions. I agree that most government technical personnel (with credentials) could make more money in the private sector but choose the more stable working environment in government. I didn't but also never seriously tried to get a CS position. From what I saw of the personnel in non-tech positions or without tech credentials, I felt most were seriously overpaid based on their GS level. About half of them would have been on my "performance improvement needed" list, if they worked for me at my prior company.

I'm not "hating" you for your pension. I just think our government is not run as well as it should/could be run. The CS system is certainly an improvement over the patronage system but it creates its own issues of an entrenched, almost untouchable organization rewarded by its ability to increase its size.
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Old 02-27-2014, 10:02 AM   #40
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In fairness, if you were here five years ago, with the Dow down to around 7,000 and there was a lot of talk about state and local governments propping up pensions while 401Ks were in a free fall, you would have.

This is the big advantage pensioners have over 401kers in terms of monthly income and fear of outliving money. A well funded system can just shrug off the big dips short term because it always has the long term perspective in mind. I live off my pension fully and I don't feel any negativism toward them here. Society wise though, the negativism will increase as the years roll by in my opinion. Although most corps have shedded them, the reality is there are still a lot of non public pensioners still alive and drawing. Once these people expire, then you are faced with an uncomfortable system in my opinion of government pensioners vs private no pensions. Unlike many sophisticated people here, average Joe Blow would much rather have a monthly check sent to him than try to figure out issues such as budget, withdrawal rate, investment asset mix etc.
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