Introduction

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No law requires private employers to offer their employees retirement plans. In fact, just over half of the workers in this country’s private workforce are employed by companies that have some kind of pension plan.

Those employers that do offer pension plans are not required to pay any minimum amount of money—and an increasing number of individuals who invested in saving for their futures are disappointed and disillusioned to learn that their retirement plans simply do not deliver what they promised.

The old standby, Social Security—the government’s income system for people 55 and over created by the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935—was not meant to be a pension program as much as insurance against extreme poverty in the later years of life. Although Social Security benefit checks for retirees have increased some in recent years, they still do not provide enough income for most people to maintain their preretirement lifestyles. Consequently, many people rely on some form of private pension—however small—to enhance their incomes after they retire.

This chapter cannot begin to cover all aspects of pension law, which has evolved into a complex morass of legal exceptions, exemptions, and loopholes and is controlled by the terms of individual pension plans. It discusses the most important laws concerning your right to collect the pension benefits you have earned and provides resources for more help.

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