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Sandy delays retirement checks

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Friday, November 2, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

Superstorm Sandy closed the stock market, much of the mid-Atlantic financial industry and part of the U.S. Postal Service for at least two days last week. For some retirees, that could mean a disruption in retirement income.

The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., which is responsible for the current and future pensions of about 1.5 million participants whose employers couldn't meet their pension obligations, warned recipients who don't use direct deposit: "The PBGC sends about 140,000 benefit payments by check each month. Because of the disruption Hurricane Sandy is causing in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, there is some risk that delivery of some of those checks may be delayed."

Among the retirement checks that won't be disrupted are those to federal retirees. The Office of Personnel Management, whose payment-processing center is in Western Pennsylvania, reassured federal employees in a statement, "We do not expect any interruption in retirement claims process, and the call center remains open."

If you are a Social Security recipient with direct deposit, you can breathe easy as well. Social Security says payments will be made as usual. Some Social Security offices will be closed indefinitely, according to the Social Security website.

But if you are one of the Social Security check recipients -- or you get any other kind of retirement check in the mail -- and you live in a Sandy-affected area, there could be postal delays.  The USPS said in a prepared statement: "Postal officials note that Social Security checks due for delivery on Nov. 1 will be delivered in those locations where mail services will be restored and safe access to the mailbox is assured."

If you live in New York City, Long Island or Westchester and your mailbox is still underwater, the USPS has specific instructions for Social Security check pickup on its website at About.usps.com.

Anyone who depends on systematic withdrawals from an investment account may experience a two-day hiccup. The stock market was closed for two days, and assets couldn't be sold and deposited in your bank account. Check your balance before writing a check. If you rely on automatic bill payment, give your bank -- and your creditors -- a call. Now's definitely not the time to disrupt your retirement planning by bouncing checks.

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