Retirement Blog

Finance Blogs » Retirement Blog » More on pension envy

More on pension envy

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, May 12, 2014
Posted: 7 am ET

I asked the question last week, "Are public pensions too rich?" and got several dozen thoughtful responses, many of them from dedicated public servants who are living in retirement and currently depending on an old-fashioned, defined benefit pension earned while they were employed in government, public safety or education.

Here are some of the comments that bear repeating:retirement-blog-pensions-are-a-promise-shirt

Lynn: I worked in a prison for 23.5 years as a secretary, inside the walls. My pension is barely over $1,400 per month. I personally think that if an agreement is made for employment and you retire with that agreement, it should not be taken away. I am now 72 years old and could not live without my pension and Social Security combined, and I know I am not the only one. They both should be left alone.

Joel: I worked 30 years as a fireman for the city of Decatur, Illinois, with the promise of a pension at the end of those 30 years. In those 30 years, I was exposed to numerous diseases and chemicals. Do I not deserve a pension? I paid my 10 percent every paycheck, but my employer decided to short-fund the plan for 30-plus years. Now with the downturn in the economy, they cannot pay the bill that they put off, and they want to blame me!

Joe: I've worked in government for 30 years on a median salary while many of my friends went into private industry. They smirked at my meager salary, lived in bigger houses and drove fancy cars while I was tickled pink to buy a three-year-old Chevy. When the economy goes in the tank and their companies are hurting, their bonuses are cut, company cars have to go another year and their investments are low, the one they smirked at for 30 years is now the bad guy because I have a defined benefit pension. I contribute 5 percent ... My pension is solvent. I'm tired of your tears. Sell the BMW, buy a Chevy and get on with it. And maybe, just thank a government worker for their service instead of trying to damage their pension out of jealously for your foolish lifetime investments.

Sharron: I worked for non-profit organizations most of my working life. I was a controller and computer information systems director, and received a salary much less than those in the private sector. These were demanding and extremely responsible positions. I receive Social Security now that I am over 65, but it is nowhere near comparable to public or private sector pensions. My sister worked 40 years as a third-grade teacher in California. I worked 45 years as a controller in California. Her pension is FIVE TIMES that of my Social Security! It irks me that the taxes I paid all of those years enabled her to have that kind of pension. I certainly am envious!

Here are some retirement planning steps to take if your public sector pension is threatened.

Bankrate wants to hear from you and encourages comments. We ask that you stay on topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, and illegal content. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to (but are not obligated to) edit or delete your comments. Please avoid posting private or confidential information, and also keep in mind that anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

By submitting a post, you agree to be bound by Bankrate's terms of use. Please refer to Bankrate's privacy policy for more information regarding Bankrate's privacy practices.
May 13, 2014 at 8:57 am

I appreciate that people's emotions are running high on the issue of pension fairness, but when funds are simply not there, it's a moot point. Insolvent pensions are a math problem. The discussion of how the math problem came to be sometimes distracts us from the discussion of how to solve it, which is the real issue.

Sean Tankarian
May 12, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Issues that affect the public sector have usually already hit the private sector. Private sector pensions are nearly a thing of the past and public sector pensions are heading in the same direction. The bottom line is that the pension issue at the core is a debt issue and dealing with debt is typically very painful.