US’s Trillion-Dollar Pension Crisis

God on Wall Street By Pastor Curtis O. Robinson, Sr. “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.” Proverbs 27:23 As my wife and I  joyfully watched the rescue of the Chilean Miners stuck in the bowels of the earth for the last 60 days, I was deeply impressed with the resiliency of the 33 men who were being reunited with their families. We owe much thanks to the engineers who put together the apparatus that was used to help these men. So I was awestruck by the comments of the first rescued miner, when he said, “I was waiting for God to rescue me while I was in hell.” The fact that these men were so far beneath the earth is an indication of the hell to which he referred. And within the bowels of this economic malaise in which we find ourselves, there is a pension crisis in America that is mammoth in its proportions. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) protects the retirement incomes of more than 44 million American workers in more than 29,000 private sector defined benefit pension plans. When we look at General Motors and the problems that occurred during its bankruptcy, most of company’s obligation was to its bloated pension promises, to the tune of more than $50 billion. Consider   this: in its last annual report before filing for bankruptcy, GM used an assumed rate of return of 8.5 percent for its U.S. pension fund, even though the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 38.5 percent that year,  and GM sustained losses of $11.4 billion on its U.S. pension assets alone. In California, it has been suggested that the state is right now staring down the barrel of a $20 billion pension problem. Across the country the same tune is being played over and over, and some have suggested that the pension problem in America could reach $3 trillion. This would include public and private pension funds. This proposition alone drives us to understand that if you do not get a handle on the state of your own work-related pension, you may not have what you think you will at retirement. That is why it is vitally important to build a viable net-worth within the African-American community. If a person aged 21 saves on a tax-deferred basis $500 a month with an assumed after-tax interest return of 8 percent, at the age of 49 that person would have a retirement nest egg of slightly over $1 million. But here is the catch: you must have some discipline when it comes to focusing on your future. In this consumer-based spending climate, corporations are largely dependent upon the consumer to buy their products so that they can stay afloat. I didn’t know that so many African-Americans were committed to supporting Wall Street CEOs’ salaries that range from $20 million to $50 million. Larry Ellison of Oracle racked up $84.5 million in earnings in 2009, and although Steve Jobs list his salary at $1 million, his actual earnings added up to $742 million. Do yourself a favor and understand that if you don’t look after you, no one else will either. Pastor Curtis O. Robinson, Sr. is Interim Pastor at the Faith Baptist Church located at 2680-64th Ave. in Oakland.  He can be contacted at curt.girlsincrich@hotmail.com.
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