'My pension isn't as big as yours' - candidates spar on investments

Among the dozens of major issues American voters had noticed both of this year's candidates effectively dodge in the many weeks leading up to the presidential election, the topic of retirement and investments finally got some mention at Tuesday night's debate - even if it was mostly this fiery sound-bite that's been spreading across the web.

With President Obama at last turning up the heat against his opponent, Mitt Romney, the exchange was one of many that added some extra color to these final weeks before the election.

The battle, for those who didn't watch the debate, began when the candidates sparred over the issue of Romney's investments in China - sandwiched in the middle of a debate over immigration issues.

Romney responded to Obama's jab:

"Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust and I understand they do include investments made outside of the United States, including Chinese companies," Romney said. "Mr. President, have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?"

Obama's retort: "I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours, so it doesn't take as long."

"Let me give you some advice," Romney replied. "Let me give you some advice. You also have investments in Chinese companies, you also have investments outside of the United States. You also have investments in a Cayman trust." 

And as for the content, as brief as it was? Much has been made in the recent past about Romney's unusually successful and sizeable IRA from his years at Bain Capital - an account whose value might exceed $100 million. Read our story to get a look at some of the (admittedly totally legal and particularly fascinating) machinations that went into creating what appears to be a particularly comfortable retirement account for the Romney family.

(Perhaps not so coincidentally, Democrats were told last month that the Treasury Department has launched an investigation into potential tax fraud on behalf of holders of particularly large IRA accounts.)

Oh, and the answer to Romney's question? The pension given to former presidents is $196,700, plus funding for an office and staff for four and a half years after they leave office. Presidential pensions are a relatively new development in U.S. history, having been intitiated in 1958 when Congress passed the Former Presidents Act, with the annual pay initially set at $25,000 a year.


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