Monday, July 25, 2005

Untangling pensions--get help in locating "lost pensions"

Today's CSM has an excellent story on resources for locating "lost pensions" when a former employer has folded, but pension funds are held in trust for beneficiaries. 

The pension benefit many workers casually scan over early in their careers becomes increasingly important as they near retirement. Whatever career stage you are in, the following resources may help you to maximize this benefit or resolve problems collecting it:

• Personal documents: Preserve notification that you are vested in a plan, an exit letter describing plan benefits, and a summary plan description. Also save W-2s. Documentation of income earned and dates worked can prove your pension eligibility. Also save your company's official name and tax ID number, which can be used to track down successor companies.

• The US Department of Labor - Employee Benefits Security Administration ( 866-444-3272) offers a free booklet, "What you should know about your pension plan." It provides explanations of various types of retirement plans and your rights under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. It also covers survivor benefits and addresses what happens if your plan terminates or your company merges.

• Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., the trustee of 3,500 pension plans, takes over plans for certain companies if they dissolve. It also takes over the administration of benefits for plan administrators who lose contact with retirees. If you lose touch with a former employer, a quick visit to may lead you to missing benefits.

• Pension Counseling Projects can help you track down a missing pension or resolve a pension dispute. For a list of pension counseling centers across the country, visit lostpension/appendixc.htm. These pension experts work for free.

• The National Retiree Legislative Network ( 866-360-7197) is a nationwide activist group that provides a network to lobby legislators on pension and other retiree-related issues.

• The Association of BellTel Retirees (, 800-261-9222) helps employees or retirees of any descendant company of Bell Telephone. This nonprofit group fights for pension and other related benefits through proxy motions and regular communication with corporate executives.

• Kirstein Library (617-523-0860) in Boston is one of the nation's first business libraries. Mention "pension" to its librarians and they will direct you to several useful publications and directories to help you track down lost companies or plan administrators.

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