When EBRI was founded 35 years ago, I was about six months into a job doing pension accountings for a large Mid-Western bank. At the time, I didn't realize I'd still be working with those kind of issues in 2013 – in fairness, like most recent college graduates, I wasn't really thinking about anything that was 35 years in the future. I had a job, a car that ran, and a reasonably nice stereo in an apartment in the Chicago suburbs that didn't have much else.

My employer had a nice pension, and an extraordinarily generous thrift-savings plan, but those weren't big considerations at the time; I had to wait a year to participate in the latter (pretty much standard at the time), and as for the former – well, you know how exciting pension accruals are to 22 year-olds (even those who get paid to do pension accountings). Turns out, I worked there for nearly a decade – walked away with a pretty nice nest egg in that thrift savings plan (that by then had become a 401(k)), and a pension accrual of $0.00.

At the time, I didn't think much of that – like many private sector workers, I hadn't contributed anything to that pension, and thus getting "nothing" in return didn't feel like a loss. By the time I left my second employer (this time after 13 years), the mandated vesting schedules had been shortened by legislation – but still, the benefit I hope to collect one day (after age 65, the plan had no lump sum option) won't amount to much on an annual basis – and won't be anything like the benefit that plan might have provided, if only I had remained employed there. Instead, like my service with that prior employer, that benefit is frozen in time. That result stands in sharp contrast with the 401(k) balances I accumulated, and that continue to grow, despite having changed employers twice since then.

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