Pension Pain Mounts as Low Rates Boost Liabilities
By Thomas BlackGeneral Electric Co. (GE), Boeing Co. (BA) and3M Co. (MMM) will join big U.S. employers in making a record $100 billion in 2012 pension contributions, 67 percent more than two years ago, as low interest rates boost companies’ liabilities.
Payments may total $400 billion from 2011 through 2015 to ease underfunding at the 100 largest defined-benefit programs, according to consultant Milliman Inc., which estimated that assets in January were enough to cover less than three-fourths of projected payouts.
“It’s been called the wall of contributions,” said Alan Glickstein, a senior retirement consultant at Towers Watson & Co. (TW) in New York. “All of a sudden this thing jumps up and stays there for a few years. That’s what it looks like -- a wall.”
Companies from defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) to aviation-electronics maker Honeywell International Inc. are caught in a vise: the Federal Reserve Board’s vow to keep rates at current levels until 2014 means pension plans’ fixed-income investments are stagnating just as new rules shorten the time available to shore up funding.
Comment: That's the way how it goes with interventionism: you try to cure one harm only to produce new harms.