Pension Fund Used to Be a Nice Thing

“How are you with finances?”, a frisbee buddy asks me this evening…
thought about it for a split second, and realized “I pay attention to markets and economics, but I don’t consider it one of my strong areas”.

That said, I’m reading all these reports and articles about different companies and governments, and whenever there is a reference to pension funds or benefits for employees, it is almost always referred to as a liability… a bad thing.. a problem.

Amazing the era we live in. Where having to actually pay your retired employees the pensions they have been paying for so many years, becomes an inconvenience.. or some kind of financial kiss of death.

It’s not that I want to be completely deaf to the complications of managing big organizations and businesses, but the first thing that I think has gone horribly wrong is how we talk about pensions.. especially in media who are so often influencial in how we talk. (like that goddam troop increase they call a S—-)

The other question I have, is who the hell is messing with this money. I understand references to baby boomers, and how many people retiring at once can be alot of money to spend on benefits. Still, I see alarming and annoying details that indicate that companies and governments alike are wrongly dipping into these pension funds and using them for other things. If true — THAT — is the real crime.. the real curse that we all have to suffer.

I watched a frontline special last year about “can we afford to retire”, which spoke of how American Airlines was so plagued by its retirement payments, it found a way to basically NOT PAY many of its former employees. And apparently other companies are looking for the same rationale / loophole to do the same. Somehow we’re all supposed to take pity and allow these companies that have made millions in profit and government subsidies,
and we’ll just forgive them for defaulting on retirement funds that people have long paid for and may not survive without.

The article I mentioned was about New York City, which apparently is an exception, as it has a budget surplus. Most cities, according to the article, are in deep trouble as many city employees will soon retire and than demand their pensions. What a crazy concept, that many people might reach a certain age and retire.. at the same time.

Im being quite sarcastic, but my question is very real… what is the REAL reason pension funds are so impossible to pay? What happenned to all the money people paid into the system throughout their working lives, and why wasn’t the system properly designed so that the money wasn’t lost or squandered… but there, for when the time came?