Can I Change My Survivor Benefit Designation?

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Is it possible to change my survivor benefit designation? If so how do I do that?
Unfortunately, you cannot change your payment option once the first payment has been issued. Survivor benefits will be paid according to the benefit payment option you elected at the time of retirement. Should your spouse predecease you, please notify our office so your benefit can "pop-up" or increase to the normal annuity benefit amount.

You may change your beneficiary to receive your final retirement payment. To change to beneficiary to receive your final payment, simply log in to the secure site using your Member ID or SSN and password and complete the "Final Payment of Retirement Survivor Benefits - Change Beneficiary(ies)" form. You can also download the form from our website.

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Friday Top Five

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The Friday Top Five: A collection of the top five news articles, blog posts, or other retirement related information from the past week.

From the Dayton Daily News: Ohio Gov Signs 5 Bills Shoring up Public Pensions

As a follow-up to two stories we highlighted here last week, Ohio Gov. Kasich signed 5 bipartisan pension bills into law. The legislation makes changes to all 5 of Ohio's public pension systems. They all had bipartisan support in both chambers, as well as the support of the pension systems.

From AARP: You've Earned a Say

A new site from AARP, You've Earned A Say is a national campaign to provide people with information about where both presidential candidates stand on the issues of Medicare and Social Security. It urges straight talk (we like that!) from the candidates, and urges people to find out where the candidates stand on these issues before casting their votes this November.

From Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, a new book: State and Local Pensions: What Now?

"This book tells the big and complicated story of state and local pensions over the past three decades. It is a story that reflects the diversity of the country – of plan sponsors with unique histories, resources, and political cultures that have shaped their plans’ financial circumstances. By adopting a broad perspective, State and Local Pensions captures the core issues that should drive the policy debate, rather than more narrow concerns that produce much heat, but little light." ~from the CRR website, and their published summary

From the New York Times: California Takes On the Retirement Crisis

Legislation recently passed called the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program would create "the foundation for a savings plan to cover the state’s 6.3 million private-sector employees who have no retirement coverage at work. The plan also could serve as a model for addressing a national problem: Americans for the most part are ill-prepared for retirement, either because they have risky 401(k) plans or inadequate savings or no retirement coverage at all."

From the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI): Question "Mark"

EBRI will soon conduct, in conjunction with Matt Greenwald & Associates, Inc., the 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey. For 23 years the survey "has examined the attitudes and behavior of American workers and retirees toward all aspects of saving, retirement planning, and long-term financial security."

The views expressed by the writers of these pieces are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of MOSERS. Print Friendly and PDF

The Pension Factor Web Series - Part I

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The Pension Factor Web Series - Part I

This infographic using pension factor data from NIRS depicts how defined benefit income reduces poverty with regard to food, shelter and medical hardships for the elderly. Part 1 of 4. Print Friendly and PDF

Members Come to MOSERS First

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No question, just a comment: Thank you, MOSERS folks, for answering our questions about the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article before we even asked ~ because, believe me, all kinds of friends were questioning me!
Thank you very much for the kind words. We strive very hard at MOSERS to provide our members with timely, accurate information. We very much appreciate you coming to us first! Again, thank you.

If you haven't seen it, you can read what we're referring to here.

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Press Release Regarding MOSERS, MOSERS Board, Funding

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Is there anything to the below? It is only the heading of an email that was sent to me. I am not submitting the whole email but can supply it, if wanted. Massive State Pension Shortfall Looms
MOSERS has had no direct communications with Representative McNary, whose press release you apparently received, titled “Massive State Pension Shortfall Looms.”

MOSERS is being responsibly financed through employer and employee contributions combined with investment earnings on system assets. The passage of pension reform in 2010 had a very significant impact on future liabilities by lengthening the period new employees must work to be eligible for benefits which automatically shortens the payout period. Critical to financing the retirement program is the long-term investment return on system assets. It would be unfair to base future expectations on our 21% return for the year ended June 30, 2011 just as it would be unfair to look only at the 2.2% return for the year ended June 30, 2012.  Our net of fees compound annual return for the ten year period ended June 30, 2012 was 8.1% and for the twenty year period then ended it was 8.5%.  Based on current capital market expectations and our asset management policy, the long-term future return expectation is in excess of 8%. On average, benefits for our new retirees are about $14,000 per year and they are retiring at about age 61.

Long-term sustainability is also a function of timely contributions by the state at rates determined by independent professional actuaries. The state has consistently made contributions so determined.
In regard to transparency, MOSERS comprehensive annual financial report is posted on our website and can be made available in hard copy to interested parties. This report has for the last 22 years received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting based on independent evaluation by the Government Finance Officers Association.

State law provides that responsibility for MOSERS is vested in an 11-member board comprised of four legislative members (two members of the House and Senate chosen by their respective leadership); the state treasurer, the commissioner of administration, two members appointed by the governor, and three other members elected by the active, terminated-vested, and retired members.

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Friday Top Five

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The Friday Top Five: A collection of the top five news articles, blog posts, or other retirement related information from the past week.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: State Funding for Missouri Employees' Pensions Will Rise Sharply

Yesterday, the MOSERS Board of Trustees voted to certify the state's contribution rate to the retirement system for FY14, which begins July 1, 2013, at 16.98%. This prudent fiduciary action by the board ensures that MOSERS will remain well-funded and promised benefits will remain secure. You can also read our own article about this action, as well as our key facts regarding System funding.

From The Squared Away Blog: A Modest Solution to Your Financial Woes

From the blog: "Amitai Etzioni [a professor of Sociology at George Washington University] is one of the last old-school public intellectuals.  He has done everything from writing 24 books to serving in the Carter White House and currently directs GWU’s Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies.  But this video captures the wisdom of an 83-year-old man who taps deeply into the psychology of money in the 21st century."

Also from The Squared Away Blog: Social Security: There is a Better Way

Married couples are faced with "a bewildering array" of choices when making decisions about Social Security. This post is about a new Social Security calculator introduced by Impact Technologies Group, Inc.

From Pension Dialog: Pension Holidays are No Vacation

We're lucky this doesn't apply to us, or the state of Missouri. The state of Missouri has consistently funded 100% of MOSERS’ annually required contribution (ARC), as determined by the actuary. Rather, this post is about other states' and cities' failure to pay the ARC and what that means for public pension systems when that happens.

From Ohio lawmakers give final OK to public pension reforms

The Ohio legislature, with assistance from the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS), passed a package of pension reform legislation that includes higher retirement eligibility ages, new guidelines for COLAs, and a new formula for calculating benefits.  There was strong support for these changes from both legislative bodies as well as the pension systems. You can read more about this from the OPERS blog, PERSpective, in their 9-13-12 post.

The views expressed by the writers of these pieces are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of MOSERS. Print Friendly and PDF

Working on Your Last Day Before Retirement

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Within couple of months I am retiring. Is it necessary to be physically present on last day of work. For example, I will be retiring on January 31 (that is the last day). I have 250 hours of annual leave. I will work in the office until December 18 and then go on leave till January 31. Do I have to report on that day for work on Feb 1st?
Your retirement date must be the first day of the month. You will need to contact your Human Resources representative regarding if you need to be present on your last day of work.
You may also visit the "Ready to Retire?" page on our website.

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What's In It For Me?

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Are you a relatively new 20 something or 30 something state employee? Are you wondering why you should care about MOSERS? You may not be planning to be a career state employee, so why should the retirement system be of interest to you now?

When we question members who are near retirement there are two points they commonly make.  The first is that they did not plan to be career state employees when they went to work for the state. The other is that they wish they would have started saving earlier for their retirement.

While there is a strong case to be made for being concerned about retirement regardless of your age, it is important to understand that MOSERS is not just your retirement plan.  Our complete lines of business all have to do with helping our members achieve financial security.

No one plans on having life as they know it interrupted by a casualty event, yet we know they happen.  What if it happens to you?  In addition to the regular defined benefit retirement plan, MOSERS has responsibility for the state’s long-term disability (LTD) program, the life insurance program, and the death-in-service retirement benefit provisions provided by law.

Employees who are not yet eligible for retirement who are no longer able to perform their job because of a casualty event or health issue are eligible for LTD benefits equal to 60% of their pay. If the disability keeps you from performing your job the benefits will be payable for two years. If you are unable to perform the requirements of any occupation the benefits will be paid until you are eligible for retirement.  Recipients of LTD benefits receive a month of retirement service credit for each month they are on LTD. More information about the LTD program can be found on our website.

MOSERS also administers a life insurance program for members who are not covered by a life insurance program by their employer. The coverage level is equal to one-time annual pay at no cost to employees. Beyond that, additional optional coverage is available to employees as well as optional coverage for the employee’s spouse and children.

In the case of a death before retirement, benefits are payable to the surviving spouse or dependent children under certain circumstances.  If the member is vested for retirement, the surviving spouse is eligible for monthly payments equal to what the member would have received if retirement had occurred the date of death and the member had elected the joint and 100% form of payment.  If there is no surviving spouse but there are dependent children, they will receive benefits until age 21.  If the member’s death is determined to have been duty related, survivor benefits are payable regardless of whether or not the member was vested for retirement and the minimum benefit is equal to 50% of the member’s pay at time of death. Additional information regarding death in service retirement benefits is also available on our website.

Personal savings are also an important part of retirement planning. A very cost-effective and efficient way to implement a personal savings program is through the State of Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan administered by MOSERS.

Regardless of your age or the stage of your career, at MOSERS there is something in it for you. Please contact us if you would like additional information regarding any of the programs we administer. Additionally, see this post from July 2012 from our "What's In It For Me?" blog series. In the coming weeks we'll also be rolling out a website series of short pieces on all the components of the state of Missouri's total compensation package. Do you know the value of your benefits? You'll want to stay tuned!

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Early Retirement Incentive for 2013?

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We received two Rumor Central questions this week regarding rumors of an early retirement incentive during the 2013 legislative session.
I am hearing state employees soon will be offered early retirement (75 points) with insurance for 5 years at employee rates. Is any thing in the pike?Are there any type of bills or incentives for workers thinking about retiring?
The 2013 legislative session begins in January 2013. There have been no formal bills filed on a retirement incentive at this time. We encourage you to monitor legislation as it is introduced and moves through the legislative process by visiting the Missouri House of Representatives and Missouri Senate websites.

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Friday Top Five

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The Friday Top Five: A collection of the top five news articles, blog posts, or other retirement related information from the past week.

From Smart Money's Encore Blog: A New Way to Budget in Retirement?

This post by Alicia Munnell, Director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR), suggests that the IRS's required minimum distribution (RMD) rules might be a better way to go than the traditional rules of thumb folks use when they're trying to balance "the risk of outliving their wealth against the cost of unnecessarily restricting their consumption" during retirement. This post summarizes a recent paper from CRR titled Should Households Base Asset Decumulation Strategies in RMD Tables?

From The Squared Away Blog: Motivation to Save: A Simple Solution?

This post includes an excellent video of a presentation given by Craig McKenzie of UC-San Diego's Rady School of Management. In it, McKenzie argues that people have a "fundamental misunderstanding of how savings grow" and that "people fail to appreciate exponential growth." His presentation offers a "simple, straightforward intervention to get the point across...of the large boost to savings of earning compound interest over many years."

From APP Solution

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has collaborated with the American Savings Education Council, a program of EBRI, to design an "easy-to-use mobile application that quickly approximates how much you need to save to live a comfortable retirement." It's called Ballpark E$timate, and it's free and available now on iTunes for iPhone.

From Yahoo! Sports: NFL's Memo to Teams in Preparation for Week 1 Replacement Refs

Weird, right? Not really. Defined benefit pension preservation is a central issue in the NFL referees' contract dispute.

From the WISER Blog: Looking at the Whole Picture: Women of Color and Retirement

While women's retirement security as a whole has been receiving some attention recently, Beth Blair, WISER's National Academy of Social Insurance intern, suggests in this post that in order to fully understand the barriers women face in retirement preparedness, we would do well to understand the unique barriers facing women of color.

The views expressed by the writers of these pieces are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of MOSERS. Print Friendly and PDF

MOSERS Virtual/Social Communications Strategies

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We have a great story to tell. There's little risk in telling the truth.

That's a quote from Michael Golden, head of external communications at the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System. He was quoted back in April in an article from about how U.S. public pension funds have taken to social media. In addition to Maryland, several other public pension systems now embrace a social media strategy, including, but certainly not limited to, OhioPERS, TRS,  and CalPERS.

Here at MOSERS, we entered into the world of social media slowly, and with caution, and we're pleased with the progress we've made. This social communication strategy was driven by our need and desire to reach different audiences through different means of communication. As of August 30, 2012, we serve just over 105,000 members. What we know for sure is that they don't all consume information in the same ways.

Along with our traditional, yet award-winning, website, we utilize a variety of tools with which to communicate valuable information about MOSERS benefits, as well as other industry related news and information, to our members. Some of these tools are social, and obviously some are not, but all of them are virtual. We strive to provide you with a variety of online tools to help you understand your retirement benefit, as well as the public pension industry in general.

  • Rumor Central has been around since 1995, and is designed to provide online answers to rumors circulating regarding retirement, life insurance and long-term disability. Members can submit a question or a rumor online, and we post it anonymously with our answer.

  • Website Feedback is an online mechanism that was designed by our in-house IT staff which allows our website users to contact us via any item on our website. Users choose a topic from a drop down menu, submit a question and get an answer, usually by the end of the next business day.

  • Facebook and Twitter allow us to share information and interact with our community in a more informal way.

  • You Tube allows us to house our short, yet informative, video collection on a variety of benefit topics.

  • RSS Feed capability on our news items allows interested parties to have all of our new website items automatically pushed to their preferred RSS reader.

  • Share capability buttons on our website allow readers to share a website item directly to their preferred social media outlet.

  • Online Chat allows members to chat online with one of our benefit counselors at any time during our regular business hours.

  • Document Express is a feature on the Secure Member Area of our website. It's an online, secure mailbox that allows our members to have fast, easy access to their secure documents and helps MOSERS save thousands of dollars each month in postage and printing costs.

  • Over 84% of our active members and over 40% of our retired members receive their communications from MOSERS electronically, which also helps us save on printing and postage costs. Members can change their communication preferences to electronic by simply logging in to the Secure Member Area of our website.

And of course, there's this Straight Talk blog. My vision for this blog is something that ties much of our current means of electronic communication (website, Rumor Central and our more “social” sites) together and provides us a place to post more opinion pieces (from our executive director, staff and others in the retirement industry), as well as links to articles, etc., that don’t necessarily fit on our website.

Since 2010, MOSERS has conducted an annual Social Media/Communications Preferences survey to gauge our members' views on various social media platforms, as well as get insight into the ways in which our members prefer to receive communications from us. Articles detailing the results of the three social media surveys we've done so far can be found in the Summer 2010, Summer 2011, and Summer 2012 editions of our newsletters.

Most recently, the more social components of our virtual communications strategy have become important parts of our business continuity plan as a crisis communication strategy. In the event of a business interruption, it is our hope that we could communicate with as many members as possible, as well as the media, via these means so that they can stay up-to-date with the most current information we have available.

For a broader view of government use of social media, see Social Media in the Public Sector, a very brief but interesting article in Governing Magazine.

Krista Myer is the manager of communications at MOSERS. Print Friendly and PDF

Friday Top Five

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The Friday Top Five: A collection of the top five news articles, blog posts, or other retirement related information from the past week.

From The Fiscal Times: GOP Not Alone in Cutting Costs for Public Pensions

The State of Missouri has, without exception, fully funded the actuarially required contribution to the MOSERS trust fund. This is not always the case for other public pension systems. Many systems have made changes during the past few years. In MOSERS' case, changes were made, in part, in order to preserve the defined benefit retirement plan culture for future members of MOSERS. As you'll read in this article, the challenges faced by public pension systems all over the country are being managed, and explained, differently, depending on political philosophy and the political will, or lack thereof, to fully fund the systems.

From Smart Money's Encore Blog: For Retirees, 70 May Not Be the New 65

A recent report from the Employment Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) concludes that roughly 1/3 of households won't be financially ready to retire even if they work to age 70.

From The New York Times: How Plan to Help City Pay Pensions Backfired

This article's focus is on the city of Stockton, CA, and its selling of $125 million worth of pension obligation bonds (POBs) to close a shortfall in its pension plans. The bonds were underwritten by Lehman Brothers, after a process which at least one analyst calls "deceptive and misleading [with] sales practices that understated the risk." Stockton (not the only local government to issue POBs) now is in Chapter 9 bankruptcy, due in part to the fact that the POB strategy backfired.

From The Squared Away Blog: Flatline: U.S. Retirement Savings

At MOSERS we always say that retirement planning should include personal savings as one of the pillars of the three-legged stool. This post from the Squared Away Blog, which is supported by the Financial Security Project at Boston College, paints a rather sobering picture of the true level of personal savings of the typical U.S. household.

From The Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College: The Pension Coverage Problem in the Private Sector

From the Brief: "The first section describes the pension coverage problem in the private sector. The second section explores the implications of the coverage gap. The third section presents policy options to address the gap. The key finding is that, absent a government initiative to create a new tier of retirement saving, pension coverage is unlikely to increase and many – both with and without 401(k) plans – will end up with inadequate retirement income."

The views expressed by the writers of these pieces are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of MOSERS. Print Friendly and PDF

MOSERS Responds to Recent SLPD Article "Can You Really Count on Your Pension?"

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A recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch mentioned couple items that raise concerns about our state pension.
  • "Missouri is better at 77 percent funded, but that's still below the 80 percent minimum considered responsible management."
  • "The Illinois constitution forbids cuts in pensions already promised to employees. The law is murkier in Missouri, but the Missouri State Employee's Retirement System says cuts for current employees would violate state constitutional protections for legal contracts."
You probably have seen this article and already planning a response in your Rumor Central blog. But I thought that I would contact you in case you haven't seen this article. Thanks.
Yes, we have seen the article you mentioned and, in fact, our office was contacted by the reporter in advance of publication. But as always, we appreciate it when members notify us of times when we are in the news, so thank you!

We can certainly understand why you might be concerned after reading the article, but let us assure you that there’s no reason to be. We did take issue with a couple of points in the article and have shared those concerns with the reporter. The first is the use of the 80% funding standard. According to the American Academy of Actuaries, references to 80% funding have become a mythic standard, when in actuality the financial health of a pension plan depends on many factors in addition to funded status, including a plan’s funding or contribution policy and whether contributions actually are made according to the plan’s policy. The State of Missouri has, without exception, fully funded the actuarially required contribution. While the current funding level is below that mythical 80% level, it is due, for the most part, to the asset value decline associated with the great recession that began in 2008. That issue should be temporary, and just in June of this year, Cliffwater, LLC, which provides advisory services to institutional investors, reported that in a study of 69 state pension plans, MOSERS’ was the “best-performing,” over the ten years ended June 30, 2011 with an annualized return of 7.1%.

The second point in the article that we took issue with was the reporter’s use of the term “old-fashioned” to describe defined benefit pension plans (like MOSERS). There are a number of reasons why a corporation might have a preference for a defined contribution plan over a defined benefit plan but the question that needs to be asked is if the shift represents an improvement in public policy.

Regarding your second concern about cuts possibly being made to current retiree benefits in Missouri, while no one can predict with certainty any potential future legal challenges and decisions by the court, it is very unlikely that members of MOSERS would lose pension benefits. In 2010, the Missouri Legislature made changes to the law regarding the retirement benefits for newly hired employees. These changes result in a lower cost to the state for employees first hired after 2010. These changes were made, in part, in order to preserve the defined benefit retirement plan culture for future members of MOSERS.

Again, thank you for bringing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article to our attention. All things considered, we thought it was reasonable.

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Political Platforms Raise Pension Issues

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GOP wary of taxpayer bailout for PBGC; Democrats may renew call for workplace retirement accounts

By Hazel Bradford at Pensions & Investments

Pension funds and retirement security are featured topics in both political parties' platforms, but the focuses are different.

Republicans are taking aim at the PBGC, while Democrats continue to promote workplace retirement accounts.

The platform approved Aug. 28 by the Republican National Committee at its convention in Tampa, Fla., included party concern over “increasingly underfunded” corporate defined benefit plans. To GOP officials, that raises alarms about a possible taxpayer bailout of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. if the agency has to take over more plans. Such takeovers would add to its already record $26 billion deficit in fiscal year 2011, ended Sept. 30.

The platform calls for a presidential panel to investigate corporate DB plans that are insured by the PBGC, as a “first step toward possible corrective action.”

The wording took PBGC officials and pension fund organizations by surprise. Noting that PBGC premium increases were enacted as part of a highway funding bill signed July 6, “they might want to give them a little time to kick in before considering additional changes,” said Ted Godbout, spokesman for the ERISA Industry Committee, Washington, which represents employers on benefits issues.

PBGC officials declined to comment.

Under wraps

While details on the Democratic Party platform are being kept under wraps until Sept. 4, when they'll be presented to delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the DNC's website notes the goals of making it easier for people to participate in retirement accounts at work, and for increased pension portability.

More retirement savings incentives are supported by pension organizations like the American Benefits Council and the American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries, and the American Association of Retired Persons, which supports President Barack Obama's proposal for automatic workplace retirement accounts in his fiscal 2013 budget. The website for Republican nominee Mitt Romney notes tax cuts would help spur retirement savings.

Political observers say clues about the DNC platform can be found in the party's 2008 platform, which pledged to “automatically enroll every worker in a workplace pension plan that can be carried from job to job.” It also vowed to push companies to provide annual disclosures to employees about pension fund investments, and to make funding pensions a priority in the event of corporate bankruptcy filings. The platform also pledged to “make sure that CEOs can't dump workers' pensions with one hand while they line their own pockets with the other.”

On public pensions, the GOP platform calls for “immediate remedial action” to address unfunded pension liabilities caused by “the irresponsible promises of politicians at every level of government.” The DNC platform is not expected to address public pension plans.

Lightning rod

Social Security is a lightning rod for both parties. The GOP platform calls for “comprehensive reform” that would raise the retirement age and slow the rate of benefit growth for higher-income earners, and allow younger workers to have personal investment accounts.

“Born in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans, it is long overdue for major change, not just another legislative stopgap that postpones a day of reckoning,” the GOP platform reads.

The DNC, meanwhile, will continue the fight to preserve Social Security while seeking bipartisan ways to strengthen it, according to the committee's website.

“In recent years, Democrats have beaten back Republican plans to privatize Social Security — plans that would have exposed the retirement funds of millions of American seniors to great risk on the eve of the financial crisis,” the DNC website notes.

With that in mind, the official platform will have “pretty strong” wording about protecting Social Security, said DNC spokesman Patrick Rodenbush.

“We'd like to see straight talk — not just 30-second ads,” AARP spokeswoman Tiffany Lundquist said in an e-mail. “Our research shows that most (baby) boomers believe the candidates have done a poor job explaining their plans to strengthen Social Security.”

The GOP platform also pledges to seek legislation to establish an annual audit of the Federal Reserve as a way to bring more transparency and less potential for political influence. The platform also calls for a panel to study ways to set a fixed value for the dollar “as we face the task of cleaning up the wreckage of the current administration's policies.”

GOP officials noted that Ronald Reagan launched a similar study at the start of his administration to address double-digit inflation, but did not pursue changes.

This article was written by Hazel Bradford and originally appeared on page 1 of the September 3, 2012 print issue as, "Political platforms raise pension issues." Copyright Crain Communications Inc.

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