Where Pensions Persist and How to Secure Your Retirement

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About Dustin Settle

Dustin Settle is the managing director of P. A. McGavick and Associates LLC in Boise, Idaho. For nearly three decades, Dustin has been an advisor and agent in the Financial Services Industry. Dustin grew up on the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington.

Once a cornerstone of retirement security, traditional pension plans are a fading perk in today’s workforce. These employer-sponsored plans, known as defined-benefit plans, promised a guaranteed monthly income for life after retirement. However, most companies have switched to defined-contribution plans like 401(k)s, placing more responsibility on individuals to save for their future.

Where May You Still Find a Pension?

While dwindling, pensions aren’t extinct. Here’s a look at the sectors where they’re most likely to be found:

  • The Public Sector:  Public employees remain the bastion of pension plans. Teachers, government workers at various levels (state, local), and those in protective services (police, firefighters) often retire with the comfort of a defined-benefit plan.
  • Utilities and Midsize Companies:  Utility companies still have relatively high pension coverage due to their often unionized workforce. Midsize companies (those with 100-500 employees) are surprisingly more likely to offer pensions to new hires than much larger corporations.
  • Unionized Industries:  Regardless of your occupation, joining a union significantly increases the odds of receiving a pension plan. Historically, unionized industries like transportation, manufacturing, and construction are still strong contenders for pension benefits.

Why Pensions Matter (and What to Do If You Don’t Have One)

  • Guaranteed Income: Pensions are about certainty. Retirees know exactly how much they’ll receive each month, providing crucial budgeting stability.
  • Protection Against Outliving Savings: Since payments continue for life, a pension offers a hedge against longevity risk – the worry of outliving your retirement nest egg.
  • Employer Responsibility: Pensions shift much of the investment burden from employee to employer.

Building Your Own “Pension”

If you find yourself in a career field without a pension option, there are steps you may take to replicate the advantages a pension provides:

  • Retirement Plan Powerhouse: Prioritize maximizing your 401(k), 403(b), or similar plans. Aggressively contribute, especially if your employer offers matching funds – that’s essentially “free money” for your future.
  • The Annuity Option: Annuities offer the potential for a guaranteed income stream. There are various types (immediate, deferred, fixed, variable), so consulting a financial advisor is essential to ensure they align with your goals and risk tolerance.
  • Strategic Investing: A diversified investment portfolio is vital. Asset allocation (the mix of stocks, bonds, etc.) should be tailored to your timeframe and risk comfort level. Consider professional guidance if this feels overwhelming.
  • The Power of Planning: Having no pension simply means taking a more active role in your retirement strategy. Utilize online calculators and resources to estimate how much you’ll need and adjust your savings rate accordingly.

Additional Considerations

  • Social Security: While not a “pension” in the classic sense, Social Security acts as a guaranteed baseline of income for most retirees. Factor this into your overall planning.
  • Flexibility: Pensions may lack flexibility compared to managing your own funds. Weigh the tradeoff between security and having more control over your retirement assets.

The Takeaway

Pensions may be less common, but they offer valuable benefits for those fortunate enough to have them. If you find yourself without this option, don’t despair. Proactive saving, strategic use of annuities, and thoughtful investing may help you construct a robust retirement income plan for a worry-free future.

Many people have learned about the power of using the Safe Money approach to reduce volatility. Our Safe Money Guide is in its 20th edition and is available for free.  

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About Dustin Settle

Dustin Settle is the managing director of P. A. McGavick and Associates LLC in Boise, Idaho. For nearly three decades, Dustin has been an advisor and agent in the Financial Services Industry. Dustin grew up on the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington.

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Content in our posted articles is deemed to be accurate but topics, facts and laws can change. It is always a good idea to verify facts before making decisions. Always seek authorized and professional advice regarding financial decisions which includes investing, annuity purchases, tax planning, changes in a financial portfolio and retirement planning.

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