Keeping Track of Your Pension

Although more and more employers are switching from defined benefit plans to IRA’s and  401(k)s, many Baby Boomers did spend part of their careers at companies that offered a pension as part of the compensation package.    Now that they are getting ready to retire, the trick may be finding the benefits that accrued while they were working.

Many of us have changed jobs several times since working for the employer that offered the pension.  At the same time, mergers, acquisitions and other corporate changes may make it hard to find the company that we worked for. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, which is the federal agency charged with taking over pension plans for companies that have gone  bankrupt and holding the unclaimed benefits owed to people whose former employers have terminated their plans, maintains an online database of more than 35,000 people who are owed pension income by companies like that.

Carol Matlack  shared her personal experience with this situation in the March 28, 2016 issue of Bloomberg Business.  After not finding herself in the PBGC database, she tried turning to the Pension Rights Center, which is a non-profit that has counseling centers in 30 states to help people with these challenges.  When this group didn’t serve the areas in which Ms. Matlack lived and had worked, she submitted an online request to the Benefits Security Administration of the US Department of Labor to help locate her pension (they also help find missing 401(k) accounts).

Before the BSA was able to find anything, Ms. Matlack was lucky enough to hear  from a former co-worker about his pension, so she contacted that provider. Apparently, a letter had been sent to Ms. Matlack, along with the rest of her colleagues, 17 years earlier, when the new company took over management of the pension. But between changing names and addresses, not to mention being too young to be thinking about your pension if you actually received the correspondence, situations like Ms. Matlack’s – except for the part where she was able to find her retirement income – are not unusual.


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