Robert's Reviews > Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers

Retirement Heist by Ellen E. Schultz
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's review
Oct 19, 2011

really liked it
Read from January 09 to 28, 2012

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 big companies are simply negligent about the environment or consumers’ health because they are not important to a company’s profitability, but in Retirement Heist companies are so consistently calculating in their efforts to bilk their own employees out of hard earned pensions that it is particularly heartbreaking. The book is particularly resonant now of course during this Presidential race and what with the Occupy Wall Street movement, the 99% vs. 1% outlook and the “class warfare” term constantly thrown around by Republicans.

The author, Ellen Schultz, does an excellent job of distilling all the information and communicating it in a way that anyone can follow. The results are astonishing. Companies when bought and sold to each other use pension assets (often overfunded at the time) as bargaining chips to enhance the value of the sale rather than a liability owed to employees. Once the transaction takes place and a new company owns the pensions assets, the subterfuge is much easier to inflict on those same employees.

The fact that companies would do things like move money from regular pensions and reallocate it to executive compensation, cut benefits to employees because of imaginary “spiraling pension costs”, layoff employees because it stops their pension clocks, reduce and reallocate pension assets to younger employees because it does not reduce the overall pension plan (legal under ERISA rules), and preemptively sue their retired employees over reduced pensions to avoid collective class action suits is ridiculous. The fact that it is all “legal” because of the loopholes these companies hire benefits consultants to find and exploit, or because of the money companies pay lobbyists to get the government rules to work on their behalf, gives the impression the little guy has no chance.

And that of course is why the book is ultimately depressing. After reading the book you certainly do not get the impression that any of these practices are going to change, and Ms. Schultz does not provide any suggestions for possible solutions. If anything, and ultimately why the book I feel is so important, it still makes the reader better informed to help protect his or her own individual retirement plan.
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08/03/2016 marked as: read

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M0rningstar "[...]the habit is very often very depressing and Retirement Heist is no exception."

I laughed (and then cried) at how true that is.

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