Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers
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Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  186 ratings  ·  50 reviews
"'As far as I can determine there is only one solution [to the CEO's demand to save more money]', the HR representative wrote to her superiors. 'That would be the death of all existing retirees.'"

It's no secret that hundreds of companies have been slashing pensions and health coverage earned by millions of retirees. Employers blame an aging workforce, stock market losses,...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 15th 2011 by Portfolio Hardcover
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Robert
I read Retirement Heist because I like to read books that I feel are important to read like The Ripple Effect, Omnivore’s Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, etc. Nonetheless, the habit is very often very depressing and Retirement Heist is no exception.

If there is any common theme in those books it is corporate greed is something that can be counted on like death and taxes. When choosing between profits and doing the right thing, big companies will choose the bottom line every time. It is one thing when...more
Nancy
Ms. Schultz delivers on her title. I had to skip through the 2nd half of the book because someone has dibs on the book at the library so I can't renew it, but her point is well made without reading every page. If you are counting on a pension, read this book. Some of the stories are really heartbreaking. With knowledge of the tricks that can be played you have a chance to avoid some of them.

Ms. Schultz is described as "formerly with the Wall Street Journal" on the book jacket. I get a lot of exc...more
Marc
Whether you have a pension or a 401(k), or you are an analyst or an investor or a concerned citizen this important book exposes some of the myths and deceits that corporations employ to reduce pension benefits and rejigger them to favor highly compensated executives as well as their balance sheets. Ms. Shultz explains how pension funds have been transformed from rightfully earned compensation for large swaths of employees into piggybanks plundered to inflate earnings, create tax shelters, pay fo...more
Tom
As Warren Buffet has said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning." This book will lead you to righteous indignation about the actions of the 1%, the 21st century's "robber barons," who are pillaging the retirement and health benefits of the elderly, the disabled and the widowed. Not only are they cutting and eliminating benefit systems that are financially sound, but they are diverting those resources into additional executive...more
Earl C
Ellen E. Schultz does a marvelous job of dissecting one of the largest scams in history. The amount of outrage the rather dry material can spark is almost as breathtaking as the scope of the scam that has successfully been carried out over the last forty years.

Here she uses the words of one of the many architects of the wealth transfer, Eric Lofgren, to illustrate not only the means but the motive:

"Both definitions are true, but they slant in different directions," he said. "The first definition...more
Adam
Scariest book I think I've ever read. Should be required reading for EVERY politician, but especially Republicans. Anyone who believes the fearmongering call of the right that we need to beware of "income redistribution" should read this, where detailed proof is provided that we HAVE been engaging in serious redistribution of wealth in the U.S. Sadly, the redistribution has been FROM the poor TO the already rich.
Jennifer
One of 5 finalists for the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism
Connie
I finished this book weeks ago, but neglected to add to my review.

This book is 100% factual, and has been meticulously researched. The author has gone to great effort to understand some very complicated, underhanded, and downright evil financial skulduggery on the part of big corporations.

This book reads like a thriller novel but it is (sadly) all true.

If you want to understand how millions and millions and millions of American workers have been duped into. Beginning in 1983 and continuing into...more
Justin Time
Its worth reading. However, I highly doubt its entirely fair. In fact, I'm almost certain its not. People everywhere have mismanaged pensions, and its not always cause they're evil.

It tells one part of the story and it tells it very well- people who were sick and ill and to no fault of their own had their pension robbed. Companies that basically took the "cushion" from the pension, then trashed it when it times got rough. Yet, it should not convince the critical thinker. There was no concrete e...more
Jerry
This book talks about the many different ways companies have found to take assets from pension funds.
For example, in 1987 the accounting standard FAS 87 began requiring companies to show the future costs of employee pension benefits on their earnings statements. This was a game-changer. This gave companies an incentive to reduce pension costs and a tool to manipulate earnings. Suddenly, the $1 trillion that companies owed three generations of employees and retirees for pensions and retiree heal...more
Mlg
I've read political books that have made me angry, but this one is in a class by itself. I never realized how the executives of just about every major company in America raided perfectly solvent pension funds that were set aside for their employees and made off with billions which they then spent on themselves. Despite what seemed to be ironclad contracts (the union contracts often fared the best), companies were able to hire lobbyists who changed laws allowing them to raid the funds, they lied...more
Nancy
Exposé of a huge, atrocious, culture of greed's debacle. Profound bad-faith fiduciary actions by corporate leadership in the last 15 years have wrecked the financial security of America's middle class. That sounds like an exaggeration. It isn't.

NEVER due to need, as claimed (mantra-like) by CEOs in the news, healthy pensions were raided because they could be: legal loopholes were exploited, legally questionable actions were implemented in an intentional way to prevent employee backlash.

In every...more
Brian
A left-wing view of the real and provable evidence that companies (and soon, governments) don't always honor their pension obligations to workers who have retired.
There were enough examples here to remind me not to depend on the kindness of others and assume that everyone will do the right thing with my pile of retirement money that will help fuel my addiction to food, clothing and shelter.
I would have liked to have seen examples of companies who have honored their pension commitments. One wal...more
David
wow, depressing read indeed about the various scams, slippery contract language, tax avoidance schemes, etc. used by companies to get out of pension or/and retiree health care obligations to employees and instead lard up "executive compensation".

As someone who's never had a pension plan, I could have used more discussion of 401k/403b plans, of which she is somewhat dismissive. To my knowledge, defined benefit pensions are just not coming back for most workers, but even as history it's a remarka...more
Teri Rowe
I had a hard time reading this book, but only because it made me so mad that I had to set it down and walk away. Sometimes for a few days. I kept waiting for my company to be mentioned & sure enough they were included. Fred Loewy is my hero! Ellen Schultz is also my hero for writing this book. I've seen companies doing to pensions & health benefits exactly how explained in the book. At 49, I took my pension & rolled it over before losing it. Of course, I could only get 50% & the...more
Matt
A depressingly complete expose of how just about every company is screwing their employees (and retirees) out of promised pension benefits. Most times it's more a case of corporate greed or horrible decision making rather than an actual need to reduce benefits.

I think the low point for me was reading some of the quotes companies said 10 years ago when they began slashing pensions and recognizing them from my own workplace in the past year (where we also are, oddly enough, slashing pensions).

I am...more
Chris
This is an extremely important book for all Americans to read - the staggering amount of misinformation about pensions and benefits being trumpeted by large corporations and the media is truly astonishing. It is mind boggling how frequently expensive lawyers, lobbyists and consulting firms have thoroughly screwed the American working class to the benefit of a few greedy individuals/companies. This book lays out in nauseating detail how thoroughly the deck is stacked against workers. My only com...more
John
This book has more examples per page of how the 1% have screwed the 99% than any book you can find. Ways big corporstions took pension money, lowered pension benefits while selling it as an improvement, lowered retiree medical benefits when the only reason was to increase bonuses and pensions for the execs. It is very depressing and makes you want to occupy something.

The descriptions of what happened are sometimes hard to follow because they generally hinge on technical matters which are briefly...more
Kim Supranovich
This book is a MUST READ for anyone who has aspirations of retirement someday. The sheet magnitude of corporate greed is illustrated so clearly by the author that you cannot help getting extremely angry and depressed in turns. No other novel has made so strong a case for why the average American has the deck stacked against them from the first day of their first job. Why the media and politicians who claim to care about the middle class are not making a bigger issue of the systematic theft broug...more
Lynn
Feb 11, 2012 Lynn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!
Recommended to Lynn by: Jon Stewart
I have never been so utterly infuriated in such a short amount of time! I have a swelling hot feeling in my gut---or maybe that's my soul burning.
I am so mad. I want to start making phone calls to every damn company listed in this book every CEO, CFO, C-whatever and curse the day they were born while I pray to god they suffer a worst faith than any they inflicted on these millions of people. Disgusting, horrible, inhumane -- straight up evil. Arrrrggggggg! READ THIS BOOK.
Louise
Not everything legal is ethical. This book shows the host of ways the arcane pension laws, accounting practices and befuddled press have made formerly well funded pension funds cookie jars for CEOs and companies. How little recourse pensioners have for redress is amazing. It is in the company's ("shareholder") interest to run the clock because the actuarial table favors the company, and there is no obligation to the employee's heirs. An eye opener as to how it works.
Denise
Schultz has done a great public service. Even a cynic will be outraged by her description of the systematic looting of pensions in the U.S. The topic is probably not of interest to most readers, but she lays out complex financial schemes in very understandable terms. The most shocking aspect of corporate America’s varied actions to convert worker pensions to executive and shareholder profits is that they have been almost entirely legal.
Danielle
Quick read and illustrates one reason for the huge wealth disparity in the U.S. Good quote: "If employers continue to control the retirement system and manage it for their own benefit, then within our lifetimes, 'retirement' will inevitably revert to what it was in the 1930s and before. Society - and taxpayers - will be paying for services to support the millions of elderly, formerly middle-class Americans."
Victor
A depressingly interesting read. With each chapter Schultz reveals another layer of corporate greed and deception. She explains concepts well, provides concrete examples and discusses the real life impact of these actions. While companies are in business to make money, this book uncovers how many large companies misuse and abuse the funds specifically marked for their employees' retirement.
Erik
I only got 1/3 of the way through this. While it might be interesting to someone how your company is putting the screws to you, it wasn't all that interesting to me. If my employer should decide to do this, they won't be consulting me anyway.

I think HR professionals should read this book, but I didn't find it entertaining.
Chris
This book truly tells a story that needs to be told, how the executive class legally steals from the earned retirement of the working class. The book is written in an easily accessible format, so kudos to the author, but the subject matter is very complex and can be difficult to follow, but no fault to the author on that.
Clark
This is going slowly. She is no Michael Lewis, not even a Roger Lowenstein. She dives into the technical detail without enough backstory for the non-specialist in corporate finance. And, I mean, I know a fair amount about personal finance and retirement products. But it's still important work she's doing, so I'll slog on.
Matt Cooley
Infuriating and fantastic. A must read for all. Makes me sick whenever I hear companies and politicians talking about pensions are bleeding their company dry... they're not and this well researched and thoughtful analysis provides a unique insight.
Gregory Farley
A painful history of corporate America's fleecing of American workers' pensions and retirement plans. Especially informative because it's the same scam that congress is currently considering for government employees and veterans.
Jill Bohn
If you thing the current rant on public sector pensions is new, read this book. You will see that we are just doing to the public workers what was done to private sector workers. And guess who ends up with the mone?
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