Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pension direct deposit shock.

My Nortel Canadian pension is deposited directly into my US bank account by Northern Trust around the 25th of each month, and like clockwork it has worked perfectly since I retired in 2002. A paper record is mailed to me as well and I keep the copy in my financial records.

This last month, September 2009, I received the paper record as usual a day or so before the pension deposit was due, however after a few days had gone by I checked my account and there was no deposit in there. Since it was a Friday, I thought it was a delay in exchanging the Canadian amount into US dollars and waited until Tuesday before checking again. Much to my consternation, there had not been a deposit and now my pension was 5 days later than it should have been.

I called Northern Trust and explained my problem and the representative told me that there had been a few cases like that in Canada and the US and that he would check with the management and get back to me in a few days.

Luckily I had enough money in my account to cover any outstanding bills, but I thought about the people who maybe had automatic bill pay and were depending on receiving the pension payment on time. In addition, with the situation that we find ourselves in with Nortel in bankruptcy proceedings, this whole business was very disconcerting.

Although the Northern Trust representative told me that it was their problem and not Nortel's, there was some niggling doubt at the back of my mind, and I spent a few uneasy days until I received a message that the glitch had been taken care of and the money was on its way to my account.

After a week's delay, much to my relief, the money was posted to my account. This was the first time I ever experienced such a situation, and I must say it brought home to me the issue we are all facing when Nortel finally winds up the pension plan.

In spite of all assurances, I'm sure there may be some glitches and delays and we all will be concerned that our pensions will continue to be paid. It's one thing to hear about percentage reductions being possible until it actually happens and then we will all be faced with a reduced amount of money each month. No matter how much we may plan and be prepared for this, I'm sure it will be a shock, and at this stage of life it doesn't seem fair at all, that we have to go through such a miserable experience.

Canada needs to take note of this traumatic situation and think long and hard about what it is doing to its seniors. We Nortel retirees know first hand the neglect of not providing a national pension insurance scheme. With many boomers on the cusp of retirement there may be many more who will encounter a similar fate. It's time the government took some real action to protect the senior's livelihood, and it's also time that the media paid more than lip service to help seniors live out their retirement in reasonable financial security.

For those of us in the US with defined benefit pensions the PBGC provides that security. Thank goodness that in 1974 the US Congress recognized the need to protect seniors from the impersonal bankruptcy process that favors companies at the expense of the individual. Millions of retirees are still living with dignity as a result, whilst in Canada many will face unbelievable hardship as a result of the apathy of the Canadian government.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,

    I'm in Canada and need info on the situation for the American Nortel employees on LTD. I can't understand how the guaranty fund is bailing them out when the plan was self-insured... Can you please write to me? My email address is There are 409 of us here in Canada on LTD that are about to lose it all...