If you have a pension, you probably breathe a sigh of relief.
Unlike a workplace retirement plan in which you invest and pray that you get decent returns, a pension guarantees you a stream of income. Even if the pension is small, it’s something. It’s there for as long as you live.
Or it used to be.
For an increasing number of retirees in the private and public sector that guarantee is in jeopardy. A lot of pension plans are in peril.
Here’s a troubling development from a story in the Post this week: “A pension fund in Cleveland became the first plan to approve benefit cuts for current retirees — even though it is still years away from running out of cash. The move, some critics say, could open the door for other troubled pension plans to follow suit,” reported Jonnelle Marte.
She goes on to write: “The financially strapped Iron Workers Local 17 Pension fund proposed a plan for extending its lifespan by reducing benefits for workers and retirees. Now that the plan has received final approval, roughly half of the 2,000 participants will see their pension benefits shrink.”
How much will retirees see their pensions cut?
Well, by 20 percent on average, although some might see a cut of as much as 60 percent.
My heart sank when I read that. And this, “The unprecedented move comes after a 2014 law made it possible for troubled pension plans to reduce benefits to retirees if it would improve the financial health of the fund,” Marte wrote.
Retiree Joe Finley, 63, told Marte this: “You play by all the rules … and then they pull the rug out from under you.”
But it’s not just ironworkers in Cleveland.
For a lot of people counting on pensions, there could be some rough years ahead.
Color Money question of the week
Are you scared your pension may get cut in the future? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Pension.”
Live chat today on retirement
Join me live to discuss your retirement years. New in 2017, I’ll devote at least one chat a month to issues around retirement.
The first Thursday of every month brings your opportunity to get your retirement questions answered. Today, my guest will be Carolyn McClanahan, a physician turned financial planner. McClanahan, who founded the fee-only Life Planning Partners, based in Jacksonville, Fla., concentrates on how health intersects with personal finance, including long-term care issues. And by the way, she does not sell long-term care insurance.
So what’s on your mind about your retirement? I’m also hoping young adults join the discussion. It’s never too early to do some retirement planning. To participate in the chat click this link.
The Color of Money Retirement Coaches
Starting on Mon. Feb. 6, I’ll be taking over the retirement newsletter.This weekly newsletter is your forum. You will have a chance to get answers to your questions about your retirement.
Whether you’re a young adult or seasoned senior it’s never too early or too late to focus on your retirement. So don’t be shy. No question is too basic. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.
On Monday, I’ll introduce you to the team of retirement experts who will be helping me answer your retirement questions. I call them “The Color of Money Retirement Coaches.”
Every Monday we’ll help you navigate to or through this very important time in your life.
Trump supporter uses his money to mend fences
A white Texas, man in town for the inauguration of President Trump left a black waitress a huge tip because her smile made him smile. The $450 tip on a $72.60 tab was meant as a “gesture that he hoped everyone could move forward together, the supporter said. For last week’s Color of Money question I asked: Would you be moved by such a financial gesture?”
Steve Re of Freehold, N.J.: “I would not be moved by such a gesture due to several experiences that have either happened to me or that I have witnessed. Bottom line is that some people are just plain prejudiced and will not deal with all people the same way. To me the tip is an apology for past behavior.”
“Nice try to make himself feel better about supporting a racist misogynist,” wrote Barbara Shaw of Boxford, Mass. “I’m glad the waitress was able to appreciate it, but it would have made me feel patronized and demeaned in light of what Trump stands for and has let loose in this country. I don’t think $450 will make much difference when she is arrested for no reason other than being black, unable to access low-cost healthvcare for women through Planned Parenthood, has no health insurance because the ACA was dismantled.”
Jennifer Wooster of Port Washington, (Long Island) N.Y.: “I’d be moved by a large tip with a kind note. Somebody’s showing they care, and that maybe they’re ashamed of their standard-bearer. If Republicans generally feel it’s more up to individuals and not the government to help, then seeing someone actually do this is helpful. This guy represents just a tiny percentage, but kudos to him. Haters gonna hate, but he showed compassion. While ‘trickle down’ doesn’t work, it’s nice to see an exception.”
Brenda Burke from Seattle: “If more of us demonstrate that kind of kindness, what a wonderful world this would be.”
Tom Sabel of Lakewood, Colo.: “I would not be moved by such a superficial gesture. I am sick and tired of listening to Republicans now saying, ‘Ooh, the election is over and now it is time to move forward together as one.’ Kumbaya. Just because some white guy leaves a large tip to a black waitress means nothing. Make no mistake about it, racism is alive and well.”
Bobbie Henderson from Baltimore: “I was somewhat moved by the ‘Thank You’ to the waitress, but I also remember being taught ‘GIVE a man a fish and he will eat for a day. TEACH a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime!’ It will prove far more helpful to this waitress and others if Trump’s supporters encouraged him to implement programs/ideas, which will help people provide for themselves and their families on a long-term enduring basis.”
Tracy Z. of Washington: “I am moved by Jason White’s generosity but not by his opinions on the problem of race relations in this country. Structural racism is not eliminated by people sharing smiles and kindness. There is plenty of that going on in the American South — on the surface. It is going to take white people educating themselves and working to dismantle systems that enshrine and promote racism. Does Mr. White understand that black people are disproportionately pulled over, harassed, harmed by police? Does he know they are followed in stores? That our public school system criminalizes behavior in black children that is handled at school level with white children? That laws are being implemented — today, not in the past — that seek to make it much harder for many black people to vote? That blacks are arrested for simple drug possession in far greater numbers than whites and when they are released are thrown into a system akin to Jim Crow when it comes to employment, voting, housing? Will Mr. White, a Trump supporter, work to dismantle the system that directly harms this waitress and her family or will he just leave a big tip? I won’t be “moved” until he and people like him commit to the former. (By the way, I’m white.)”
Jennifer Newlin of College Park, Md.: “My nephew’s pastor challenges his congregation to tip 100 percent of the tab — not always, but every once in a while. It is AMAZING to see the wait staff’s reaction. And most of my women friends tip on the high side. It is our way of redistributing wealth and realizing an extra dollar or two can make more difference to wait staff than to us. I think it is indeed moving.”
Color of Money columns this week
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to washingtonpost.com/business.