Do you cringe at the thought of April 15? If so, an article published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on the 15th of March under the banner, "Stealth Legislation" and titled, "Pension Rules Tacked Quietly On Trade Bill Portend Vast Changes" should precipitate an almost apoplectic reaction; at least if you still naively think your pension fund is going to comprise the major bulkhead of your retirement framework.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone in this country, as a last gasp shot fired right through our collective foot by the lame duck Congress of last year, the most damaging pension funding changes to come along in the past 20 years were crammed right down our throats. And we didn't even gag. Because we didn't even feel it. At least not yet.I'm talking about the little-noticed 129-page pension provision addendum tacked awkwardly onto the leviathan 26,500-page General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade stiletto that our beloved Congress silently slipped between our ribs as they were fading into oblivion last year. If you haven't retired yet, those 129 pages will cost you dearly.
The GATT legislation carried a multimillion-dollar price tag its protagonists knew would meet with tough sledding in Congress. In order to make the GATT bill palatable enough for passage, they attached a rider that would generate enough revenue to pay for it at the same time. The place they chose to get the money from to fund this rider was straight out of your pocket, but they did it in such a circuitous way that you wouldn't realize it.
They took it out of the potential pension money you expect to get from your employer when you retire. Isn't that nice? They affixed it as a pimple on the posterior of the GATT behemoth, thinking that if they didn't mention it, we wouldn't notice it. And, they were right. They didn't. And we haven't. That's why the Wall Street Journal labeled the whole smear "Stealth Legislation."
Under the legislation, companies can change the interest rate assumptions used to calculate benefits from the 5 percent used last year to the current rate on 30-year Treasury bonds, which is about 7.5 percent. The higher rates result in a smaller distribution to retirees, especially those who take a lump sum rather than an annuity because a smaller investment is required to produce a given annual income. Depending on age, years of service and other factors, the reduction could range from 60 percent for people in their 40s to 30 percent for people over 60. A whopping setback like that could scuttle your whole present retirement plans.
I believe our congressional representatives owe us an explanation.
Dee C. Passey