Could the Traditional Pension Plan Make a Comeback?

Common Dreams
March 2, 2024

Pension plans never really went away—despite beliefs to the contrary that they are fatally flawed, with 401(k)s being the only sustainable retirement plans. The reality is that there are still 50,000 financially healthy pension plans in the United States. Most public sector workers, for sure a minority of all workers, still have pension plans. The other reality, though, is that progressively fewer workers since the early 1980s have had access to traditional pensions plans.

The general experience in American workplaces has been that once gone, pension plans do not come back. Here and there the trend has been bucked with pension plans returning to replace 401(k)s. In 2008, West Virgina public teachers voted to return their pension plan that had been taken away by the state legislature in 1991. The 401(k)-like plan that replaced it had produced such poor returns that participants were facing poverty in retirement. In 2012, after a long campaign, Connecticut state employees were allowed on a voluntary basis to switch out of a 401(k)-like plan into the state’s traditional pension plan. Click here to read more.

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