The June 19 editorial “A smart step on pensions” said Pennsylvania’s new law on pensions would give most new state employees a choice of “three retirement savings options similar, in varying degrees, to the defined-contribution plans common in the private sector.” But two of the options are based on a defined-benefit model with a 401(k)-style defined-contribution component. These plans are not similar to the 401(k) option common in the private sector.
Pennsylvania lawmakers wanted to preserve a large portion of the retirement plan as defined-benefit, knowing it provides a superior retirement vehicle for workers. The default option for workers is the better of the two pension options.
It is important to note that even if you can take your 401(k) with you when changing jobs, it still fails to provide any measure of security in retirement for most American families. The average total 401(k) balance in Pennsylvania is $40,719. Costs are an important factor, for sure, but we should also ask about the quality of life we want retirees to experience and the burden on our social services and communities if people cannot afford to retire.
The majority of state pension plans offer some type of portability. We shouldn’t allow misconceptions about portability to drive decision-making and destroy actual retirement security.
Bailey Childers, Washington
The writer is executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition.