Sep 6, 2006


Neal Nuze

A federal judge has given Delta Airlines permission to end its pension program for pilots.

Next step? Delta goes to some outfit called the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to put an official end to the plan.

Next step? The taxpayers step in and pay a goodly portion of the pension benefits for retired Delta pilots.

Many of these pilots spent their entire careers steadfastly doing their difficult jobs with the understanding that when the government forced them to retire at 60 a comfortable pension would be waiting for them. Now most of them will be trying to find a way to go on without having to go back to work or reduce their standard of living.

These Delta pilots aren't alone. They have plenty of company in retirees from other companies who have also eliminated pension plans. All of these people have one thing in common. They relied on others for their retirement planning.

The sure way to avoid what is happening to these pilots, and what has happened to so many other American retirees, is to assume the responsibility and control of your own retirement planning from the very beginning. When you invest the money that you earn into your own retirement account ... no company can come along and say "Hey, times are rough. We're ending your pension program." You're self-reliant! You're immune from some third party's determination to raid and destroy your pension fund!

Sadly, the people of this country just don't have this type of an independent streak. Minor decision, minor planning ... that's fine. Americans don't have any problem coping with the freedom to decide what to eat for dinner tonight, where to go on vacation, or what book to read. When it comes to the truly important issues: How to provide for my family's heath care, how to plan for and fund a retirement plan and how to educate my child ... it's always somebody else's job. Preferably the government.

Several years ago Americans were given the choice of whether or not to support a simple plan to allow them to take just two percent of their earnings ... money that was going to be taken by Social Security anyway ... and invest it in a private pension plan over which they would have sole and complete control. They passed. This was just too much of a burden for most Americans. They didn't want the responsibility of having to figure out where to invest that money. Just let the government do it.

The rejection of the plan to partially privatize Social Security gave us a terrifying look into the psyche of the American worker. Freedom is fine, as long as it doesn't entail to much responsibility. When the going gets tough, go to the government.

The pensions for these Delta pilots were not guaranteed by the law or by our government. Well, guess what? Either are your Social Security benefits. Watch how the pilots handle this situation. You may have to emulate them at some point.

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