August 3, 2018

It’s all about the numbers

I’ve mentioned before that I work in retail.  I’ve been doing that for the last 32 years give or take.  Now that I have less time ahead of me than behind me, I have to give serious thought about what I’m going to do about the time when I’m no longer working.  IE: how to pay for retirement and attempt to live comfortably, at the very least.  

I have an important decision coming up next week.  It involves my future, my retirement and some other issues that will be happening in the months and years to come.  Specifically, I have to vote on a referendum that’s occurring at work. 

At my work, the business is going through its own transition.  The company is in the midst of a bankruptcy, and they’re attempting to find ways to get rid of debt, and attempt to keep old debts from staining their ability to go forward.  One of the major sticking points is the agreement they made with the union that I’m a member of, when they last negotiated a contract in 2017.  They stated at that time, they were obligated to continue to fund the pension plan they’d been supporting for the last 20 some odd years.  Now, they want to do away with that (as so many companies are doing these days), and instead invest in a 401k plan to ‘benefit’ their workers.  Unfortunately, that means screwing over their employees in the long run, since pensions are guaranteed, and something that’s based on investments is not.  Drastic changes in markets, in investments and badly managed portfolios can be disastrous to 401k’s over time, but though the company is aware of that, they’d rather save money in this way and continue to plow it into risky management issues that they’ve been doing for too many years already.

The union hierarchy at this point knows they’re in a bind.  The judge that is overseeing the bankruptcy this past week ok’d a plan by the company to reward executives for essentially staying at their desks, by giving them incentive bonuses.  At the same time, this 401k plan is being floated to the union rank and file, and there’s a vote coming up next week to decide whether or not to accept it.  If the vote goes against the proposal, the company has a few options open to it.  They can go one of two ways.  Ask the judge to throw out the contract that was enacted last year (forcing the union to strike) or attempt to re-negotiate with the union for a lesser payment on the pension plan they’re already unwilling to support as of March of this year.

I’ve been going back and forth about this since I learned about it early last week.  I have a 401k with the union that I’ve been a member of for a while now.  From an information video that was published this afternoon, the union is saying that the new money coming from the company would be folded into the present union 401k, not a new one set up by the company, which was sort of presented last week.  Up to now, the 401k through the union was funded by yourself alone, the company did NOT do anything in the way of matching funds or kick in money of their own.  This seems to be the thing that’s going to change.  The pension that I’d been counting on is more than likely not going to be there when I reach retirement age around 2032.

I’m really not sure whether or not to support this initiative.  I honestly don’t think it’s going to matter one way or another, since there’s not likely to be a lot of people at the meeting that I go to next Tuesday.  At the ratification meetings for contracts, generally attendance is abysmal.  A lot of people who are members of the union don’t bother to vote, even though there are things they then complain about, but if you don’t show up to support things, in my mind you lose your right to bitch about it afterward.

Both the wife and my girl have noted I’ve been more melancholy lately.  I’m fairly sure this has a lot to do with it.