Fix My Job: Benefits

Where are my retirement benefits?

Ready to go fishing? 

Nobody ever died, as they saying goes, wishing they had spent more time at the office. But these days, many of us – in offices, factories, warehouses, hospitals and other workplaces – are afraid we’ll have to work until age 70, 75 or beyond simply to afford a few cans of tuna at the nursing home.

The fear, unfortunately, is not entirely unfounded. A secure retirement for U.S. workers is largely provided through pensions, 401(k) plans, and Social Security. But now each of these “safety nets” for our retirement years is either getting weaker or in danger of becoming so.

No wonder 70 percent of Americans believe it is getting harder to retire . If employment-based retirement programs continue to erode, and Social Security remains under attack, we will be left with a workforce that can’t afford to stop working .

How to protect the benefits you have:

Creating a secure retirement system for American workers is a major social issue, which can’t be addressed by any one worker, or even in any one workplace. You can be part of the long-term solution by asking about your retirement benefits at work, joining with your co-workers to advocate for improvements and participating inthe political discussion  about retirement security.

In the near term, here are some specific steps you can take to get more information about the benefits you have now, and protect them as best you can:

  • If you have a pension plan, but think you are not getting the correct paymentsthe U.S. Department of Labor has suggestions  on how to check on your benefit payment so you can make sure you receive what you have earned. (Pensions and other forms of retirement pay are not a gift from your employer, but a form of deferred compensation. You earn this money while you’re working, so you can have security later in your life, when you’re not working.)
  • If you have a 401(k), but think that your contributions are getting eaten up by fees paid to financial firms, this primer  from the U.S. Department of Labor can help you get the facts and take appropriate action.
  • If you think that your employer is not paying its share of the Social Security (FICA) tax or the share that is deducted from your paycheck each month, you can file a report them to with the IRS .
  • If you need to work a certain number of hours in order to qualify for your company’s retirement benefits, but you never get assigned quite enough hours, seeFix My Job for Not Enough Hours for Benefits .

Useful Links

Government Agency:  Top 10 Ways to Prepare for Retirement,  U.S. Department of Labor.

Organization: National Institute on Retirement Security ,

Tool: A Retirement Calculator

Types of Retirement Plans

  • Defined benefit pension plans – the most cost-efficient and effective way  of providing a dignified retirement – are quickly disappearing .
  • 401(k)s are significantly riskier , and are severely underfunded  for most Americans.
  • Social Security – a government program that most private-sector workers pay into with every paycheck – is currently secure. The best “reform” for Social Security is to leave it alone. But the system is under attack from politicians who want to reduce benefits, or turn it into a privatized system that would place seniors at the whim of the stock market.


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