Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Data: LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The younger you are, the less retirement security you’re likely to have, as employers accelerate efforts to shed costly pensions and replace them with alternatives that make workers shoulder more of the risk and responsibility.

Why it matters: Millennials and members of Generation Z will face less prosperous golden years than their parents, given the retirement accounts they get nowunless they are diligent about allocating money, investing it wisely, and not blowing it when they gain full access.

The backstory: Companies have long been moving away from traditional pensions, where retirees are guaranteed a certain level of benefits, and replacing them with 401(k)s and other retirement savings accounts, which are more vulnerable to the ups and downs of the stock market. But lately, those changes are happening even faster.

What’s happening: A perfect storm of circumstances, from lower interest rates to higher longevity rates, is prompting corporations to offload their pension plans — by selling them to insurance companies and offering lump-sum payments to some workers.

  • Deal volume in the “pension risk transfer” business, in which a big company like Lockheed Martin or FedEx sells all or part of its pension obligations to an insurer like Prudential or Metropolitan Life, was the biggest ever in 2018, and is on track to be bigger still this year.
  • The insurance company pays retired workers an annuity that is equal in value to the pension they’ve earned, but the workers lose certain safeguards, like the backstop of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the agency that steps in if a company can’t pay.
  • “Companies are looking to get those defined benefit plans off their books,” Robert Falzon, vice chairman of Prudential, tells Axios. “It’s a multi-trillion dollar market that will continue for some period of time.”

If your pension is sold to an insurance company, there are “potentially terrible consequences,” Norman Stein, a law professor at Drexel University and policy advisor to the Pension Rights Center, tells Axios.

  • “What happens if the insurance company gets into trouble?” he said. “What happens if you find out that your benefit was miscalculated and you’re entitled to more than the company sold your pension for?”

By the numbers: Among Fortune 500 companies, only 81 sponsored a pension plan in 2017, down from 288 in 1998, according to Prudential.

  • At the same time, the number of pension risk transfer deals rose to 493 in 2018 from 203 in 2012, according to the LIMRA Secure Retirement Institute, a nonpartisan research center.
  • In the public sector, many pension plans are dangerously underfunded.

Between the lines: 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans are cheaper for the firms than pensions and more onerous for the employees. Consumer advocates say that the swapping pensions for 401(k)s is a raw deal for workers — particularly in an uncertain economy.

  • When the next recession hits, a falling stock market will drive down the value of 401(k) and IRA accounts invested in equities.
  • While pension plans are run by professionals whose fees are paid by the corporate sponsor, consumers with IRAs or 401(k)s must figure out their own investment strategies and pay fees.
  • Despite the tax penalties, many consumers raid their 401(k)s to pay pre-retirement expenses, something they can’t do with a pension.

Unless you buy an annuity — which comes with its own plusses and minuses — it’s hard to know what to do when you reach retirement age and have to parcel out your savings to last a lifetime.

  • “A lot of people don’t know what to do with a lump sum,” Chantel Sheaks, executive director of retirement policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tells Axios.

Silver lining: For younger people, who are less likely to stay at the same job for decades, a 401(k) or IRA can offer more flexibility.

The bottom line: Despite these issues, people with either a defined benefit or a defined contribution plan from their employer should consider themselves lucky.

  • A quarter of non-retired Americans had no retirement savings or pension in 2018, according to the Federal Reserve, while “six in 10 non-retirees who hold self-directed retirement savings accounts, such as a 401(k) or IRA, have little or no comfort in managing their investments.”

Go deeper

Hill votes will make global waves

President Biden addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

This epic week for President Biden on Capitol Hill is even bigger than his domestic agenda.

Why it matters: Biden has anchored his entire strategy for foreign affairs on the notion that "America is back." What that means in practice is that Biden needs to prove democracy works to rally America’s liberal allies against rising authoritarians.

4 hours ago - World

German election: Exit polls show close race to succeed Angela Merkel

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The first exit poll from Sunday's German elections showed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) in a dead heat at 25%, leaving the race to succeed Angela Merkel too close to call.

The state of play: A second exit poll showed the SPD narrowly ahead. That's the one televisions displayed at SPD headquarters in Berlin, where the room erupted into cheers. Official results will roll in throughout the evening.

Abbott says he'll hire Border Patrol agents on horseback if they're fired

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday defended the actions of U.S. Border Patrol agents who charged at Haitian migrants on horseback, blaming the Biden administration for not preventing them from crossing the border.

Why it matters: Abbott's remark on "Fox News Sunday" comes amid increased backlash over the incident, with President Biden saying, "I promise... those people will pay,” and the Department of Homeland Security launching an investigation.