Archive for the 'Financial Literacy' Category

Can You Afford Not To Watch It?

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

Below is an excerpt from the article Will Your Workers Ever Retire?, by Dallis Salsibury (President and CEO of the Employee Benefits Research Institute), and originally published on Human Resource Executive Online ( 

Looks like I already missed the showing in my area, but I’m going to try to catch it online, where it will be available starting tomorrow:

Television specials sometimes have the power to change public perceptions and to move Congress and presidents to action.

As the Employee Retirement Income Security Act sat stalled by interest-group debates, NBC ran a one-hour special on the pension crisis. Shortly thereafter ERISA became law.

Maybe the same dynamic will begin this week.

For many months, we have been reading of pension terminations and freezes, and of Congress moving slowly towards another “pension reform” bill. The public has been amazingly quiet as Congress, the administration and interest groups spar.

Discussion — or action — may pick up with the airing this week of a PBS special “Can You Afford to Retire?” The subtitle of the broadcast: “Baby Boomers Face Retirement Crisis as Lifetime Pensions Wither and 401(k)s Can’t Keep Up.”

Free Retirement Planning Booklet

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

I guess this day was bound to come sooner or later – the day that my work bled over into my blogging…

I learned today that the EBSA (that’s a branch of the Department of Labor called the Employee Benefits Security Administration)* has published, and will send anyone who wants it, for free, a booklet called “Taking the Mystery Out Of Retirement Planning.”

Promoting awareness of retirement savings options (and the power of compounding money, even on small savings) is a topic near and dear to my heart.

One of my heros in this area is Economist and part-time Actor, Ben Stein (he was the teacher in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off who kept saying “Bueller…”, and he does the “Clear Eyes” commercials). He may be a republican, but he’s a superstar in the area of promoting personal financial literacy. Someone has to do it. Our schools and society in general do a lousy job at preparing anyone on these topics. One of my long-term plans/dreams is to put together a college class (or maybe just a book or collection of articles) on the topic of the history of the safety net, and how the philosophy about society’s obligations to its weaker members has changed and evolved over time, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Another pipedream I have is to promote changes in high school curricula to add more info on basic financial literacy skills. That topic is mostly absolutely ignored now, which is horrible.

Anyway, call up the old EBSA (toll free), at 1.866.444.EBSA (3272), and they’ll send you a copy of this booklet, if you’re interested, especially if you are a “Baby Boomer” and/or within 10 years of retirement. That’s actually the target audience for the booklet. I ordered one (but then I’m a retirement nerd). It will be shipped to me in a couple of days.

*And for those of you still reading, I’ll explain my use of an asterisk after the name of the EBSA, above. You see, until three years ago, the EBSA (Employee Benefit Security Administration), which is the government body responsible for enforcing many employee benefits law violations, was known (and had been known since 1974) as the PWBA (the Pension and Welfare Benefit Adminsitration). In my line of work, and according to the Department of Labor, all employee benefits are either 1. a “Welfare Benefit” (i.e. a health plan or other, non-retirement benefit), or 2. a “Pension Benefit” (a retirement benefit). So maybe the name sounds weird but that’s the law. That is, until George W. Bush came along and changed it. He doesn’t like the word “welfare,” you see. That’s it. No other reason than that. So in February 2003, he changed the name of the PWBA to the EBSA (to eliminate the word “welfare” in the agency’s name). Consquently, every single document or law or website or plan document that referred to the PWBA was suddenly incorrect and had to be updated. Just thought you’d like to know that. We benefits practitioners thought it was strange, indeed. But oh well. Now it’s the EBSA. (If you ask me, it’s strange how often politicians bash lawyers (or, if you’re Dick Cheney, shoot them) and then turn around and give us plenty of work to do, keeping up with all of their law changes – this is only a tiny, easy, example). I shouldn’t really complain. It keeps me employed. But it’s interesting to learn where your tax (and benefit plan dollars) go.