Category Archives: Retirement


Companies busy selling bonds to plug pension deficits

By John Detrixhe
Bloomberg News

Companies facing the biggest pension deficit since at least 1994 are selling bonds at the fastest pace in more than seven years to plug the hole, betting that future returns will exceed their borrowing costs.

United Parcel Service, Dow Chemical, Northrop Grumman and PPG sold at least $5.25 billion of investment-grade U.S. corporate bonds in November to fund their pensions, making it the busiest month since June 2003, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Federal Reserve’s effort to hold down interest rates to stimulate the economy has caused corporate pension obligations, which are pegged to bond yields, to rise by $105.8 billion this year to $1.44 trillion as of October, according to Milliman. Now, companies are taking advantage of borrowing costs at about the lowest on record as interest rates are expected to rise as the global economy recovers.

“They’re fighting fire with fire,” John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Group in New York, said in a telephone interview. “They’re being victimized by low bond yields, so why not go ahead and use them as an offset?”

Investment-grade corporate bond yields, used as a benchmark to determine future corporate liabilities to retirees, fell to 3.53 percent on Nov. 4, the lowest ever, Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data show.

Corporate pensions in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index with about $1 trillion in assets are 77 percent funded this year, down from 82 percent at the end of 2009, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in an Oct. 29 report.

Read more: Companies busy selling bonds to plug pension deficits – The Denver Post
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10 Things I Love About Retirement

     I’ve been retired long enough to realize that I should have done this a long time ago. I drove for 30 years and there wasn’t a day I didn’t think about retirement. I thought my day would never come, but it did. 

     Here are 10 things I really like about retirement.

     1.  I can take breaks whenever I want. Nobody says I have to be busy every minute of every day. Take a break, knock off early, get sidetracked, who cares. 

     2.   Nobody examines my work except  me. There is no WOR or Telematics or 3 day rides. If I have a non-productive day, then that’s what I have. Nobody beats me up for it except me. 
      3.   I don’t have to wear brown. I know a lot of guys who saved a few old uniforms thinking they would wear them if they were painting or changing the oil in the car. I don’t know of anyone that has ever put one back on. 

      4.   I can travel in December. My first Christmas I took my wife to the Cayman Islands. I felt so guilty I could hardly enjoy myself, but I tried. 

      5.   I can volunteer at my nephew’s school. Going on a field trip with 28 second graders may not sound like fun, but it is to me because I missed all of that with my own daughter.  UPS came first, family came second.

      6.   I don’t live in fear. I’m not looking over my shoulder all day long wondering who’s tailing me, who’s watching and criticizing me and wondering if I’m going to be nailed tomorrow for something I did today.

      7.   I can set my own daily schedule. Sometimes I sleep in, sometimes I stay up late. I eat whenever I want. I can start early and quit before I’m done.

      8.   I make the rules. There are no methods. I try to work safely and stay healthy, but I don’t carry my keys on my pinkie and I even make left turns sometimes.

      9.   I can have sex on weeknights. Enough said. 

     10.  I’m “off the clock” FOREVER.

What Type of Pension Do You Have?

     Do you know the difference between a defined benefit and a defined contribution pension, which kind you have and which is better? Every driver at UPS should know the answers to these questions because every driver would retire today if they had the opportunity. The money, the insurance and the pension. That’s why people work at UPS. I don’t know anyone who stays because they enjoy it. No Surrender
     As a retiree, I know quite a bit about the pension.  I’ve jumped through all the hoops and tried to ask all the right questions. I’ve struggled to understand the insurance and I’ve searched for that open door at UPS where I could go in and sit down get all my questions answered. That door doesn’t exist, of course, and in reality it’s really difficult to get  information about the pension because the company has no website or local pension experts. I’ve heard people speculate that the reason UPS doesn’t talk about the pension is because they plan to convert to a defined contribution as soon as possible.
     Liz Pullium  Weston has written a great article What’s killing pension plans? Maybe you  and in concise terms it tells you why you have the best type of pension and what you should be willing to do to keep it. Nothing in this world worth keeping is free anymore. As workers across America lose their jobs, their benefits, and even their homes, UPSers feel insulated and safe. But are we? 

     I think a smart and united workforce could give UPS a run for their money as we enter this new millinium of corporate power. But when push comes to shove, will UPSers be too scared to stand up? I reached a point where I couldn’t stand back and watch UPS steamroll over all the employees around me. I stood up. I began to fight back. I became a steward. I started a website. 

     If you are reaching that point too, a good place to begin would be the pension article I mention above.

     Knowledge is power. Grab it.

Don’t You Miss It?

     I had someone ask me the other day if I missed UPS. I retired last Fall and I walked away and haven’t looked back. Do I miss it? I didn’t have to think too long before I said emphatically, “NO! I don’t miss it.”
     But the question made me think. What would I miss about it? Would I miss the long hours? I don’t think so. I’ve been working a couple of days a week for a local florist. It’s about 3 hours as day and it pays $6 a stop delivering bouquets. I can take home about $100 a week and that pays for my health insurance that I get through my pension. I’ve gotten used to the hours, going in at 10 and getting home by 2. I don’t miss the hours at UPS.
     Maybe I should be missing the heat of driving a brown solar oven all day long. And that light-weight, cool summer uniform. My floral delivery truck is air conditioned.  I don’t know how I lived through so many summers at UPS. A summer in a UPS truck is cruel and unusual punishment. People get arrested when they leave their dog in their car in the summer, we should have the same concern for the UPS man.
     Or what about that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from working for a boss that respects and appreciates you? Oh wait…that’s not how it is at UPS. It’s more like crazed fear. It’s an angry feeling that never seems to go away. No, I don’t miss that either.
     So what do I miss about UPS?
      I miss a feeling that we used to have when the job of driving was a thinking man’s game. We left the building entrusted with $10.000 worth of boxes that had to be delivered the fastest way possible within a defined area.  We juggled time commitments with the customer’s needs and the company’s demands and we made it happen. We set it up and we ran it off. Everyday. We would look through the truck, set ‘em up, and we could remember what stops we had as we drove down the street. We knew our next 5 stops. We were constantly fine tuning our daily plan to find the quickest and best way to get things done.
     And the company knew we were the best drivers on the street and they respected us. Our own company respected us. Imagine that. And our customers loved us. The company was profitable, the stock was private and the value was stable. It was a good time to be a UPS driver. I had pride in my job, in my company and in myself. It was a great feeling. That’s what I miss.
     But I’ve missed that for a long time, not just since my retirement. That feeling has been gone from UPS almost since the strike in ’97. That’s when the camaraderie between management and the workers went south. Then the stock went public in ’99 and the corporate focus turned away from the workers and the stockholders became the most important people outside Atlanta. Then PAS came along and the company told us to stop thinking. Telematics makes us into robots.
     There is nothing about the job today to miss. The money is good while you are working but you pay a price for it. A big price. It’s called “a life.” I haven ‘t looked back since my retirement because I’m too busy with life. It’s a good feeling, I highly recommend it.

I’m NOT that Old

     I was in Einstein’s Bagels the other day and it took them about a half an hour to make my order. I guess exceptionally slow service must be a hallmark of Einstein’s Bagels because they have installed a video screen above the counter for the amusement of waiting customers.
     The monitor was playing a series of  questions with 4 answers, removing one answer at a time until just the correct answer was left. These games can be kind of fun and I started getting into it when, to my surprise they asked: “What were the names of the four members of the band called The Beatles?”  Then it gave 4 choices, like “John, Paul, George and Sting?” or “Jeff, Paul, George and Ringo?”
     My God, am I so old that I have outlived the influence of The Beatles?
For anyone out there who has forgotten who The Beatles are, I offer the following video.


And for anyone who is too young to remember:   It was John, Paul, George and Ringo !

National Health Plan to Contain $2 Trillion Deductible

Hopes for a quick fix for the nation’s health insurance woes were dampened somewhat today when the medical industry released its draft proposal for a plan that would include a $2 trillion deductible.

“We know that some critics will regard this number as a little on the high side,” said Carol Foyler, a spokesperson for the American Medical Association, who had a hand in drafting the plan. “But bear in mind, once America reaches that $2 trillion number, everything is covered at fifty percent.”

The AMA proposal includes other details certain to raise eyebrows, such as a mandatory full-body CAT Scan for all Americans over the age of 12.

“Some people may regard this as unnecessary testing, but it’s going to take a lot of CAT Scans if America’s ever going to reach the deductible,” Ms. Foyler said.

The AMA spokesperson said that the health industry was looking to cut costs in other ways, such as creating a 50,000 square-foot “national waiting room” on the site of an abandoned Chrysler plant in Flint, Michigan.

The proposal has it share of other controversial features, including a pharmaceutical plan that consists of a plane ticket to Canada.

the Borowitz Report

Retirement and Health Care

We deserve better

Des Moines, Iowa —- The high cost of long-term health care will drag down the quality of life for nearly two-thirds of today’s retirees. It can cost $77,000 a year for a nursing home room and $20,000 for in-home care, expenses that many people are ill-prepared to absorb, said the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

A new analysis shows that when the cost of health care and long-term care is included, 64 percent of retirees likely will be unable to maintain the lifestyle they had before retirement.

“This is the No. 1 issue staring us in the face over the next decade,” said Paul Ballew, a senior vice president at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., which provided a grant to fund the study.

The cost of health care will create such an unexpected hardship on unprepared retiring baby boomers that it’s imperative to sound the warning now, said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research.

Read the rest of the story here.

Mr. Information

        One of the roles a steward often plays is the job of Mr. Information. People have all kinds of questions and it’s often up to us to have all kinds of answers. Most people want answers to immediate problems, like how many 8-hour requests does the center allow off each day? Are option days given by seniority or first come, first serve? What do I do about excessive hours? I don’t mind being the Answer Man, it’s kind of fun sometimes.
The Answer Man        But sometimes I give people advice on questions they haven’t ask. Especially new hires. New hires are often so engrossed in trying to get the job done that they can’t see the forest for the trees. One area where new hires often need some friendly advice from the old steward is in the area of retirement planning.
        Now I’m not a financial advisor and I don’t claim to be. In fact, those are the first words out of my mouth. “I’m not a financial advisor, but…”. The most important part of financial planning is to start as soon as you can. Like now. The company offers a payroll deduction for the Teamster-UPS 401(k). It amazes me that only about half of the full timers take advantage of this easy way to save. It’s simple and painless and 20 years up the road you will kick yourself in the ass if you didn’t bother signing up for it. That’s always the first thing I tell newbies. Then I direct them to the resources they can use to get signed up. Every steward should know how to get a new hire signed up with the 401(k).Retirement        
        The next thing I talk to people about is the pension. I encourage them to go online and read everything they can about pensions and pension legislation. I give them the addresses of a few pension activist websites that allow people to keep abreast of and participate in pension reform. I never say it, but secretly I fear that many of the drivers starting out today will not have a fixed amount pension like we know when they reach retirement age. By fixed amount, I mean things like $2500 at 25 and out. That’s why it’s so important to start saving from day one as a driver.
        Some people look at me like I’m crazy because they think they will always have enough money or enough time to save some money for retirement. Those people need a little wake up call. PBS did a story on Frontline that is available online to watch from the comfort of your own computer chair. It’s called “Can You Afford to Retire?” You can watch the whole 60 minute show online and believe me, it’s scarier than any Stephen King novel. They make the case that the reality of the situation is that pensions are disappearing and most of us will outlive our savings.
        Every steward should watch this show. People count on us to give them advice and if we aren’t scared shitless by what the future holds financially, then we probably aren’t giving them the right answers. So strap yourself into your computer chair and start the movie.
Believe me, this ain’t no love story.

“Can You Afford to Retire?”

One of Those Days

     Today is one of those days.
     It’s one of those days when retirement is sweeter than a sticky bun and hot cup of coffee. This is the kind of day I used to only be able to dream about.
     It snowed today. It snowed big time. One of my driver friends called me about 1 o’clock from the parking lot formerly known as I-70. UPS had sent the trucks out on a mission of failure and now they had called them all back in. But of course, by this time, driving back in was nearly impossible.
     I remember days like this when I was a driver. The TV  stations had been talking about a blizzard for the last 3 days. They were predicting anywhere from 8 to 15 inches of snow in Denver and more on the west side near the foothills. It’s the kind of forecast that can give a UPS driver insomnia. I remember that feeling of impending doom.
     When we woke up this morning it was already snowing hard. We had about 6″ on the ground out west here in Lakewood, they had a little less in town, but the forecast was unchanged. Driving into work was Demand your rightslike walking up the steps to the gallow, you knew this was not going to be a good day.
     True to form, UPS is loading the trucks and getting ready to dispatch everybody into the teeth of the storm. They were giving advice on what to do if your businesses were closed. DUH. Do you think anybody is really going to be open today. Not anybody with any common sense. But UPS is not able to see the futility of sending out 400 routes on a day when the forecast calls for heavy morning snow intensifying in the afternoon.
     So out the trucks go. You know that if your first 20 stops aren’t open for business, then you’re screwed because you can’t empty the truck enough to get organized. And sure enough, your worst nightmare unfolds. Parking lots are not shoveled, businesses are closed, traffic is impossible to work around. And the snow keeps on falling. Now it’s 9″ and the wind is picking up. You begin to curse the fools that sent you out here.
     By noon you’ve got about 30 stops attempted and half of them were closed. The truck is still packed. You can’t get to the boxes you need to scan and service cross. You are getting messages on the DIAD that various highways are closed. How much longer will they keep this fiasco on the street?
     By 12:30 you get the message to come in. You head for the highway and see it’s at a standstill. Great. Now what?? You go over the options in your mind. The side streets might have less traffic but they aren’t plowed. There is always a bottleneck intersection or hill that will be tough to get around. The traffic moves a bit on the highway and you decide to get on.
     Now you are sitting on I-70 and wondering why management would send out 400 drivers on a day like this. It can’t be cost effective. The risk must be unbelievable. How many accidents have they had already? During the 2006 blizzard, the only reason they called us in when they did was because they had 10 accidents in one hour. Didn’t they learn anything from that? Who could possibly be dumb enough to send us out into a growing storm? God, I wish I was retired……
     And that brings me back to the reason I’m writing this. I AM retired. And I’m watching it snow and wondering if I ought to go out and do a little preemptive shoveling. Maybe if I shovel off every 5 inches tas it falls, then I won’t have to shovel all 15 inches at once. Sounds like a good idea. Maybe I should call UPS and ask their advice, they’re got the brilliant minds. They know what to do in a blizzard.

Home for Supper

One of the best things about retirement is being home every night at supper time. The hours that a UPS driver works are just crazy. Being out on the route til 7:00 every night and missing supper with the family, being gone from the house for 11 to 12 hours every day, not being able to plan even the smallest event after work; that’s nuts. UPS pays well and the check looks oh so good with all that OT on it, but it’s really Real livingliving to work, not working to live.
UPS has their hands all over you when you work there. They direct you, they schedule your life, they rip at your flesh. We get little tastes of what a real life is like when we are on vacation. We can plan our own day. We can do our own thing. You can’t do that when you’re working.
Retirement is hard on some people because they don’t know what to do with themselves. No schedule. No 5 day grind and overloaded weekends. You don’t have to push to finish a job on Sunday night because you know it will be a week before you can get back to it. It’s not an easy adjustment at first. It’s not easy to lose that feeling that you aren’t getting enough done. For some of us, our self worth has been set by our ability to produce for a long time. When you don’t produce, you feel guilty.
I went through a phase where I got up everyday and put on a brown shirt just so I would feel motivated. Then I’d wolf down some breakfast and lauch into a project. When I needed a break, I’d have to justify it to myself. I’d catch myself looking at my watch. I’d be counting whatever I was handling. I was doing my UPS thing.
As the months have gone by though, I’ve learned to relax a little. Sometimes I purposely sit and do nothing. While gazing up at the passing clouds, I have a little argument with myself. “It’s not a bad thing, I’m not wasting time. Time is not money. I’m living my life.”
But the biggest change has been eating supper between 5 and 6 o’clock every night. It feels so natural. It feels “normal”. Does that mean that life at UPS where you eat supper every night at 8 is not normal? Yes, I thnk that ‘s what that means.

UPS driver information