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ERISA Pension Lawyer

Student Loan Debt Threatens Retirement Security of Many Older Americans

The Government Accountability Office (GAO)--the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of Congress--recently released a report showing that a growing number of older Americans are saddled by student loan debt. Indeed, the rate of increase in older borrowers and the amount of their debt has rapidly surpassed that of younger student-loan borrowers. Further, borrowers age 50 and older have much higher rates of default on federal student loans than younger borrowers, loans that generally cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

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I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Help You

If you are looking for your 401(k) check, this may actually be true. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal agency, has long had a "missing participant program" which helps find pension plan participants who may have left their employers years earlier and are now owed pension benefits, but cannot be found. The program currently covers only terminated single-employer defined benefit (DB) pension plans (plans that pay benefits based on a formula defined in the plan and in the form of an annuity). The program does not cover defined contribution (DC) plans (plans that pay only the participant's account balance, e.g., a 401(k) plan).

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Department of Labor Stepping Up Audits of Pension Plans

In 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it was stepping up efforts to ensure that terminated vested participants receive the pension benefits they are due under the terms of their plan. The DOL's primary targets? Large Fortune 500 defined benefit pension plans whose Form 5500 filings show high numbers of participants eligible for benefits, but not receiving them.

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2017 Global Retirement Study Reveals That U.S. Retirement System Is Only Average As Compared To Other Countries

For the ninth year in a row, Mercer (a global consulting firm with expertise in pensions and investments) and the Australian Centre for Financial Studies have collaborated on research studying the retirement systems of 30 countries and published their findings in the 2017 Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (2017 Study). The main objectives of the Study were to (i) benchmark each country's retirement system using more than 40 different factors, (ii) determine the primary shortcomings of each country's retirement system, and (iii) suggest reforms for improvement.

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Harris Poll Survey Reveals Life Is Worse in Retirement for Many Recent Retirees

Harris Poll recently conducted an online survey on behalf of the Nationwide Retirement Institute to gage Americans' outlook on retirement. There were 1,012 responders (i) age 50 or older, (ii) retired or planning to retire within the next 10 years, and (iii) collecting or expecting to collect Social Security benefits. Their responses are sobering.

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Best and Worst Cities for Retirement In the U.S

Analysts for WalletHub recently surveyed our nation's 150 most populated cities for four attributes retirees typically seek when considering where to retire: (i) affordability, (ii) activities, (iii) quality of life, and (iv) health care (the Survey). The analysts utilized 40 different metrics, grading each on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the most favorable. The cities were then ranked by their total point score, with a rank of 1 being the best and a rank of 150 being the worst. Based on this ranking, the top ten cities for retirement were:

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U.S. Retirement Security Slipping

Natixis Global Asset Management and CoreData Research recently released their 2017 Global Retirement Index (Index)--their fifth such Index to date assessing retirement security in 43 developed countries. The Index utilizes 18 drivers of retirement security, grouped into four categories: health, finances, quality of life, and material well being. The data respecting the United States is disappointing.

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Whether You Are An "Employee" Or, Instead, An"Independent Contractor" Could Impact Your Right To Pension Benefits

ERISA [the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs most private-sector pension plans] seeks to protect employees' interests in their employer-provided pension benefits. Therefore, in order to recover pension benefits under an ERISA-governed plan, one must be an employee of the sponsoring employer. The same holds true if you work for a governmental employer; that is, you must be an employee of the governmental entity.

Disputes sometimes arise when parties disagree as to whether a worker is an employee or, instead, an independent contractor. A recent case illustrates how the problem might arise, and the factors courts consider in deciding the question, at least where the claim is for ERISA plan benefits. Jammal v. Am. Family Ins. Group, No. 1:13-cv-437. 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120684 (N.D. Ohio, Aug. 1, 2017).

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Nurse Who Worked 20 Years For The Same Employer Never Vested In Her Pension

Pension plan participants sometimes call me about a dispute they are having with the plan administrator as to whether they are vested in their pension benefits. As part of their inquiry, they want to know the rules governing pension vesting. Here are the general rules, along with a real-life example of how they worked for a caller who, after 20 years of service with the same employer, was denied a pension on the ground that she was not vested.

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