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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 11, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Pension reform: the well-being of city employees; realities don’t reflect rhetoric

Messing with the well-being of city employees

In The Seattle Times’ Business section aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia warns that Boeing is running big risks in forcing major concessions from its unions [“Analyst Aboulafia lauds 777X, berates Boeing for creating ‘ill will', Business/Technology, Feb. 6].

He comments, “If you don’t have the workers on your team working with you and feeling good, you’ve lost a big chunk of the battle.” It is well known that the forced concession angering Boeing machinists is the substitution of a 401(k) plan for their defined-benefit pension.

Yet, on the following page, former State Auditor Brian Sonntag suggests that Seattle might do well to follow this same path with our city employees [“Seattle’s pension system is unsustainable,” Opinion, Feb. 5]. Do we really want those supplying our essential city services, many of whom make considerably less than Boeing workers, to work for us feeling they are no longer respected players on our city team?

Edith Ruby, Seattle

Realities of retirement planning do not reflect rhetoric

What if everyone who has a mortgage had to make all of their future payments right now? It would not be surprising to find that the total sum could not be paid if the amount owed on those mortgages “came due all at once.” Although this is what former State Auditor Brian Sonntag presents as a problem, it is not what happens with mortgages, nor does it happen with pension obligations.

Pension systems can be defined contribution, where the employee knows what they have to contribute every month, or defined benefit,” where they know what they will receive on retirement. Pensions funds can accumulate money based on both employer and employee contributions. A possible difficulty with defined contribution systems is that if the stock market tumbles just before you retire, the amount you have for retirement could be much less than what your co-worker who retired two months ago receives.

Rather than a scary scenario that isn’t going to happen, what we need is information. How is the pension plan funded? What is its history of meeting obligations? How can a “well-designed defined-contribution system” protect retirees from the ups and downs of the stock market? Give us relevant facts please.

Mary Wallon, Seattle

Comments | More in Pensions | Topics: Boeing, Brian Sonntag, Edith Ruby

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