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.
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!