November 2011 Issue
October 25, 2011

Rising costs strain retiree pensions

Author: Kara Smith
Source: NYSUT United

Margaret Corbett has sound advice for in-service members: support your union.

Otherwise, the protections you enjoy today could be lost tomorrow. "Union strength represents future security for you and your family," said the Rome Teachers Association retiree.

Corbett speaks from experience. A former music teacher, she retired in 1996 with a pension and health insurance benefits through her district. Her husband, after 37 years on the job, saw his private sector union weaken and his benefits erode.

"When he started, he had all the benefits I did," said Corbett. Left with a tiny pension and no health benefits, he worked three days a week in retirement to supplement their income — until he lost his position in January due to state cutbacks.

"He didn't think retirement would be like this," said Corbett who nonetheless feels fortunate. While her husband's insurance premiums are expensive, they manage through careful budgeting. But with rising costs, she worries about the future.

"What if something happens to me and he doesn't have my pension?" said Corbett, terming the push to end pensions "a race to the bottom."

"Workers aren't asking for the moon, just a decent standard of living in their retirement years."