'Pension Envy' for the Golden Years

According to a congressional report, U.S. businesses are almost half a billion dollars short in their pension obligations to current and future retirees. Brian Unger examines the growing numbers of workers with "pension envy", and offers a solution for those who face their golden years without a golden parachute.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Personal finance is also the subject of today's Unger Report. His advice for planning the overtime at FRAM, Brian Unger.

Mr. BRIAN UNGER (Marketplace): Do you think of the word retirement as an anachronism? Is your conversation interrupted by verbal tics comprised of words like safety net and 401K? Are you overcome with feeling inferiorities when you see a boat, a beach of vacation home? If so, you and millions of other Americans suffer from pension envy. Pension envy afflicts baby-boomers, but is most prevalent among generation X, those born post-baby-boom, who brag about the joys of freelancing and working from home, then face shame and humiliation whenever they are intimate with an accountant.

Symptoms of pension envy are mostly invisible, but there are clues. Those most worried about dying broke and alone tend to talk about their parents a lot, who brazenly track across American on no particular schedule, pulling an Airstream trailer, comparing Cracker Barrel gift shops, state by state. They, the greatest generation, flaunt their retired, secure, well-funded selves. They, the last generation, who will know the joy of mercury-free sea bass, remind us of an era when pension funds were flush, when companies rewarded employees for decades of service and didn't terminate pension funds because it screwed up launching an airline called Ted.

Those with pension envy tend to admire and watch Larry King, not because he's such a good interviewer, but because he and his guests are so serenely rich and old; in fact, they are so rich and old, they could retire if they wanted to, but instead, they work just for the fun of it.

Imagine being 73 and working just for the fun of it, not because you're afraid of living in your car, but, finally, for those who suffer from pension envy, there is hope. There is a plan. With so many pension funds being frozen or scrapped altogether, the best way for Americans to support themselves in their golden years is to simply move in together when they're old.

This retirement solution is familiar to an entire generation with pension envy.

(Start sound clip)

Unidentified Man: It's the true story of strangers, fit to live in a house, who find out what happens when they stop getting benefits and start getting real. The real world: no pension addition.

(End of sound clip)

Mr. UNGER: For 17 years, on MTV, we watched The Young and the Restless live recklessly and naked in a house. Why can't the old and incontinent do the same? by living out their remaining years together under one roof, people with no retirement may have one thing in old age that's better than a pension. They'll have a hot tub, and that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

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