Help is on the way for those who can't figure out the difference between floor-offset pension plans, cash balance plans, ESOPs, VEBAs and 401(k) plans.
The General Accounting Office, the independent investigative arm of Congress, is compiling a primer on pension issues, at the request of Rep. Amo Houghton Jr., R-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee, and Rep. William J. Coyne, D-Pa., among the many lawmakers who have been examining pension issues following the collapse of Enron Corp. The primer, intended for lawmakers and their staffs, will be available next year, said George Scott, assistant director of the GAO's education, workforce and income security issues division, which will begin work on the project soon.
In addition, the GAO also is analyzing possible alternatives to the 30-year-Treasury bond as a benchmark for valuing pension liabilities for employers to use in calculating contributions and insurance premiums for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Mr. Scott hopes to present the report early next year to two Democratic lawmakers who requested it - Reps. George Miller of California and Rob Andrews of New Jersey. The GAO also will examine the implications for lump-sum calculations of a move to a new benchmark, he said; the American Academy of Actuaries and pension lobbyists have been pushing for a change in federal pension law that would let employers use another benchmark.
Also, the GAO will study whether regulatory hurdles might be prompting older workers to collect their retirement savings as a one-time payment instead of collecting monthly pension checks for life.