Category Archives: Public Employee Plans

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Wall Street: “If it can be broke then it can be fixed”

That’s Bloc Party, a British indie rock block pictured above. And If it can be broken then it can be fixed is the opening line from Pioneers, one of the tracks on Silent Alarm, their 2005 debut album. The album was crafted by chief lyricist Kele Okereke to examine the feelings and hopes of young … Continue Reading

QDROs: The view from 30,000 feet

  If you’ve been around retirement plans for any length time, you’ll know that the acronym QDRO (one of many in the benefit business) stands for Qualified Domestic Relations Order. It’s a court order that creates a right for an alternative payee to receive some or all of a participant’s benefits in a qualified retirement … Continue Reading

“I asked you what time it was, not how to make a watch”

Every once in a while I’ll start to wander off into “Pensionspeak” when I’m talking to a client. And when I do, I’ll catch myself by remembering what one of our important business partners once told me when I started to get too technical. Or even technical at all depending on the audience. He told … Continue Reading

Giller and Calhoun launch new blog, the Business of Benefits

We welcome a new blog to the employee benefit blogging community. It’s the Business of Benefits, the focus of which is issues facing insurance companies, financial service providers, and plan sponsors. It’s being published by the law firm of Giller & Calhoun. The named partners are Evan Giller in New York City and Monica Dunn Calhoun, Denver. Bob Toth in Ft. Wayne, Indiana … Continue Reading

What Americans want from a retirement plan

With a new Administration and a new Congress about to take over, we’re going to start to see the think tanks and not-for-profit organizations issuing research and recommendations regarding public policy for retirement plans. One of those organizations is the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), a not-for-profit organization whose stated mission is to “encourage the development of public … Continue Reading

Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo: The 2008 Retirement Plan Year in Review

That’s the title of Sergio Leoni’s 1966 movie considered the greatest of the Italian spaghetti westerns. We know it in this country, of course, as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The movie starred Clint Eastwood (the Good), Eli Wallach (the Bad), and Lee Van Cleff (the Ugly). And just like the movie,  the year 2008 had The Good, The Bad, and … Continue Reading

December 2008 Client Briefing: FAQs on Fiduciary Liability Insurance

A Risk Management Tool for Fiduciaries in A New Retirement Plan Environment Updated for the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PDF) Introduction My last post was a year-end ERISA fidelity bond reminder. ERISA does not require liability protection; the only mandatory insurance is an ERISA Fidelity bond to protect the plan assets from losses due to misuse or … Continue Reading

Out of sight, out of mind: the funded status of public employee pension plans

See full-size image. While media and investor attention has been totally focused on the market meltdown, the funded status – or lack thereof, of public employee pension plans has been escaping attention. And attention there should be, because it affects all of us taxpayers in our respective states. And it’s one of those complicated issues … Continue Reading

Dilbert (and others) on public employee pension funding

The funded status (or lack thereof) of public employee pension plans doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage by the mainstream media. That’s unfortunate because it’s an important public policy issue with extremely significant long-term financial implications for all of us taxpayers. But leave it to cartoonist Scott Adams to weigh in on the topic via his … Continue Reading

National Institute on Retirement Security, new national organization, launches website and issues first Research Brief

Retirement is not about the proverbial gold watch any more. Today, our focus is on retirement security, and the newly created National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) is adding to the dialogue. The NIRS was established in in 2007 by the Council of Institutional Investors (CII), the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), and … Continue Reading

“Should I stay or should I go?” The factors influencing an employee’s decision to retire

It was 1982, and many of today’s baby boomers were listening to the song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” that was on The Clash’s album, Combat Rock. According to NME, Mick Jones, the lead guitar on the song, wrote it about singer Ellen Foley, who sang the backing vocals on Meatloaf’s Bat Out … Continue Reading

Enough already about the Baby Boomers, what about Generation X?

View larger image. Lost in the mass media focus on the Baby Boomers retiring is Generation X, the generation that follows. Depending on how they are defined, it’s the people born between 1965 and 1985 (age 23 to 43). I’ve written about them before, Not my generation that nobody seems to want. The "nobody" referred … Continue Reading

Who has the richest retirement plan in America, the CTA or the MBTA?

If you’re familiar with Chicago and Boston, then you’ll know that the CTA is the Chicago Transit Authority and the MBTA (also known as the "T") is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. But I never really thought about whose retirement plan was the richest in America until I saw this story carried by the, … Continue Reading

What every fiduciary should know about their brokers … and also their custodial banks, and financial contracts

I’ve got that queasy feeling again in my stomach. The recent collapse of Bear Stearns gave me flashbacks to the 1990s during which we struggled with insolvency issues affecting ERISA plans. If you were around back then, you’ll remember the insurance companies that failed or were seized by insurance regulators as a result of failed … Continue Reading

“Decumulation”: a concept about which you will hearing more

See full-size image. “Decumulation”, in definitional terms, means the conversion of pension assets accumulated during an employee’s working life into pension income to be spent during retired life. But in practical terms, decumulation embodies a significant new risk for the record number of future retirees moving from the accumulation phase of their lives to the … Continue Reading

“A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face”

That’s what Evelyn Venable who voiced the Blue Fairy told Pinocchio about liars getting caught. But that was in the Disney classic. Now it’s a little more high tech. The newest method is Voice Stress Analysis (VSA), a technology with the same objective as the polygraph: to determine whether the subject being tested is lying. It’s currently being used in … Continue Reading

The big data security question: Have we met the enemy and is it us?

I’ve written about retirement plan data security – or lack thereof – in the past, but always in the context of employee data on laptops that had been stolen. But as I read about a recent study cited by, Pogo’s famous words came to mind, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Are … Continue Reading

Solving the “annuity puzzle”

I recently wrote about retirees moving to Tibet, a metaphor for retirees moving from the “land of accumulation” to the “land of accumulation” and the new financial culture with which they will have to master. The “tour guides”, the financial industry, will have to solve the “annuity puzzle”, the investment industry term for the disconnect between … Continue Reading

Cash may be king, but some kings are more protected than others

In volatile markets, investment managers go to cash. That’s happening right now because of the prime mortgage meltdown. But not all money market funds are the same. Just as there are enhanced index funds, there are also enhanced money market funds.  "Enhanced" meaning the fund manager seeks higher returns by taking slightly more risk. And … Continue Reading

Is a vulture fund coming to your retirement plan soon?

They’re called "vulture funds". They’re financial organizations that specialize in buying securities in distressed environments, such as high-yield bonds in or near default, or equities that are in or near bankruptcy. Take for example, Argentina whose external public debt was  bought up in substantial measure by vulture funds at   very low prices. Or in this … Continue Reading