The world of pensions, already becoming a bit of a holdover from a different era in America, took a new twist late last week with word that Ford Motor Company (speaking of that different era) has figured out a clever way to clear up its obligations to current retirees.

It’s called a lump-sum payment. And it’s not that much unlike the deals you see pushed on those late-night TV ads with the bus full of singing Vikings, offering folks to cash in their structured settlements and annuities. Or, like a gigantic 401(k) payout for those who’ve lost their jobs.

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