EFERMA 2012 Workshop #1-Broken Promises-02-12


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How to cope with reduced income and employee benefits

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EFERMA 2012 Workshop #1-Broken Promises-02-12

  1. 1. Broken Promises: HelpingEmployees Cope With IncomeLosses and Benefit Reductions Barbara O’Neill Rutgers Cooperative Extension oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu
  2. 2. What’s Happening?Workers can’t even count on income andbenefits promised in their CURRENT laborcontract, not to mention promises madeyears ago when they were first hired.
  3. 3. Era of Broken Promises• Terminated pensions• “Church plan” pension exemptions from ERISA• Suspended 401(k) matches• Salary cuts and freezes• Furloughs• Benefit cuts• Pension COLA cuts• Others
  4. 4. Key Themes During Past Few Years Peggy Noonan reply to question from Maria Bartiromo about “game-changing events during 2011” on Wall Street Journal Report, 1/1/12 “The fall of structures that we’ve come to rely on” and “Lots of insecurity”4
  5. 5. More Evidence of Broken Promises New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, 12/16/11 interview about streamlining government, including new pension benefit tiers: “the whole system was designed at a different time and a different place and it needs serious reorganization.”5
  6. 6. The “New Normal” is Exacerbating Broken Promises6
  7. 7. For Some, the Dream of Upward Mobility is Slipping Away7
  8. 8. The Real Cause of All the Anger While recent media reports have covered angry protests directed at public employees whose pension and health benefit packages lasted longer than most in the private sector… …the REAL ISSUE is that workers in both the public and private sector have lost critical pillars of financial planning support that they once thought they could count on!8
  9. 9. More Background• Increasing numbers of public (and private) sector job benefits have been overhauled – Employers realizing previously-promised benefits are unsustainable and/or unaffordable – Politically popular to slash public employee benefits• More than half of public pensions are <80% funded – < 80% level deemed “substantially underfunded”• Defined benefit (DB) pension formulas and COLAs especially under attack9
  10. 10. Why the Concern About DB Public Worker Pensions? • Employers bear the risk of providing formula-based benefits calculated from: – Highest salary levels (e.g., 3- or 5-year average) – Years of service • Greater life expectancy, medical advances • Pension contribution under-funding • Unrealistic growth assumptions10
  11. 11. Frequent Pension Plan Changes • Lower benefit tiers for new hires • Retirement ages raised (e.g., 55 to 60, 62 to 65) • Automatic COLAs eliminated or scaled back • COLAs tied to pension plan performance • Changes in pension benefit formulas – Elimination of “sick day” bonuses – Change from “High 3” average salary formula to “High 5”11
  12. 12. Case Example: New Jersey PERS • “High Three” Average Formula (Current Tier 1 and 2) – Years of Service/55 x Final Average Salary – 35/55 x $60,000 = $38,181 annual pension ($3,181/month) • “High Five” Average Formula (Could Happen) – Years of Service/55 x Final Average Salary – 35/55 x $52,000 = $33,090 annual pension ($2,758/month) • Difference of > $5,000/year and $423/month • See http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/pensions/estimate.shtml12
  13. 13. Health Benefit Challenges • Workers’ coverage is decreasing and/or they are increasingly paying more for: – Premiums – Deductibles – Co-payments • From 2000 to 2010, average premiums for family coverage through an employer increased 114% • More employees’ ONLY option is high- deductible health insurance13
  14. 14. More About High-Deductible Plans • Moderately lower premiums than traditional plans • Twice the deductible of conventional health insurance – $1,908 average deductible (2011 Kaiser survey) vs. < $1,000 • Now the ONLY benefit option at Wells Fargo, General Electric, American Express – Public sector employees will be next!!! • Often tied to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) – Tax-free employee savings accounts to cover deductible and other medical costs14
  15. 15. More About High-Deductible Plans • Percentage of workers enrolled in high-deductible health plans quadrupled from 2006 to 2011. • Often called “consumer-driven health plans” • Encourages consumers to be more conscious of medical-care costs; comparison shopping is difficult • 2011 quote from health insurance company CEO: “It’s safe to say we expect enrollment in consumer- driven health plans to continue to grow.”15
  16. 16. So What Do All These Changes Mean? • Any income or benefit promise can be broken…even in union contracts • NO employee benefit is “guaranteed” • New economic realities require adjustment to avoid – Accumulating debt due to negative cash flow – Setting aside inadequate retirement savings – Outliving retirement assets • Proactive planning can mitigate benefit losses16
  17. 17. The Consequences of Inaction are Serious Example: 30 year suspension of COLAs on NJ state pensions (legislated in 2011) • Inflation effects will be corrosive (e.g., 4%) – $10,000 annual pension payment at age 55 – Purchasing power of $4,563 in 20 years – Purchasing power of $3,083 in 30 years17
  18. 18. Beware of “Stampedes” • Employees heading for the door in droves fearing that an employer will cut benefits • Employers could cut benefits anyway (no guarantees that you’ll be “grandfathered”) • Examples: – NJ state workers, teachers, uniformed personnel – Federal government workers? • In many cases, longer service will mitigate benefit reductions (e.g., loss of COLAs) – Increases “Years of Service” part of DB pension formula18
  19. 19. How Do People Adjust to Broken Promises? • Increase income • Reduce expenses • Save more money • Reduce retirement lifestyle expectations – Lower-cost housing and/or geographic area – Less travel, gifting, entertainment • Work longer than originally planned • Ask family members for help19
  20. 20. What to Do When Your Income/Benefits are Cut • Work longer • “Retire” while working • Accelerate debt repayment • Save the shortfall • Consider career changes and/or freelancing • Consider investing more aggressively • Control investment expenses • Spend less and shop savvy • Investigate new benefit alternatives • Define “success” differently20
  21. 21. Work Longer • Time is an enemy (twice) for early retirees – Fewer working years to accumulate personal savings, pension benefits, and SS – More non-working years to finance • The years just prior to normal retirement age are usually a period of peak earnings • May have more control over “service” part of DB pension formula than “average earnings” – Example: tenured professor with a pay freeze21
  22. 22. “Retire” While Working• Standard Strategy #1- Retire at a planned age with less money than anticipated due to NN events and risk running out of money due to benefit cutbacks, increased health care costs, longevity, etc.• Standard Strategy #2- Retire later and risk “waiting too long” (e.g., after age 65-70) so that death, health “issues,” widowhood, etc. hinder planned retirement lifestyle and/or quality of life.• New Strategy #3- Keep working BUT use money that had been going into savings (i.e., suspend or reduce 401(k) or 403(b) contributions) to begin enjoying “retirement activities” NOW without actually retiring. https://www2.troweprice.com/iws/wps/wcm/connect/d2edab0046d7abf0a87eb899d3 5c25cc/04779- 23_P1.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=d2edab0046d7abf0a87eb899d35c25cc (Fahlund, C. Delaying Retirement, But Not Your Retirement Dreams)22
  23. 23. Save the Shortfall• Calculate amount lost from a retirement benefit cut• Multiply by 25 to determine shortfall savings goal• Do the math and develop an action plan to save – Younger workers need to save < older workers• Example: $6,000 annual benefit loss – Need to accumulate $150,000 by retirement ($6k x 25) – Age 45: $3,660/year or $305 per month23
  24. 24. Consider Career Changes and/or Freelancing • Public sector employment benefits are generally not as attractive as they once were – Newer tier hires often have lower benefit tiers • Option #1: Changing jobs could lead to better benefits; less stress • Option #2: Aggressively demonstrate value to current employer (to earn a promotion) • Option #3: Freelance for additional income or to replace lost income due to benefit plan changes – Increased health insurance cost-sharing – Increased pension plan contributions24
  25. 25. Consider Investing More Aggressively • Even with elimination of COLAs, people with DB pensions have income for life (acts like an annuity) – Ditto for Social Security • Most retirees with DC plans have risk of an ever- changing sum of money that needs to last a lifetime • May be able to invest more aggressively if you have streams of lifetime income • Know your risk tolerance: http://njaes.rutgers.edu/money/riskquiz/25
  26. 26. Spend Less and Shop Savvy• Unpleasant as it is, you may need to spend less to adjust to the effects of broken promises• Adjusting to less support from an employer or government may be a necessity, not an option – “Stepping down” spending – Moving to a smaller/cheaper home – Phone apps to compare prices – Coupons and groupons – Asking for discounts – Fewer trips and gifts (e.g., retirees) – Other ideas?26
  27. 27. Investigate New Benefit Alternatives• Explore benefit options that you might not have considered previously – High-deductible health insurance and an HSA or HRA• Do a cost-benefit analysis of alternatives – Premium savings from high-deductible plan vs. amount of out-of-pocket payment • Attend benefit fairs/seminars and ask questions27
  28. 28. Keep an Eye on Government Benefits • Changes to Social Security – More needs-based? Older age? Lower benefits? • Changes to Medicare – More needs-based? Older age? Lower benefits? • New health care law and aftermath • Consider using very conservative benefit estimates for financial planning purposes • Assume that you can’t count on promised benefits?28
  29. 29. Major Take-Away: Focus on What You CAN ControlCAN’T Control CAN Control• Speed of economic recovery • Healthy lifestyle• Financial markets • Spending habits• Labor market/unemployment • Saving habits rate • Investment expenses• Housing market • Human capital investments• Employee benefit cutbacks • How you spend your time• Political environment• Actions of lawmakers
  30. 30. Questions? Comments? Experiences? • Think of these strategies as a “Jersey diner menu” • Adopt strategies that work for you 30