Is the Pension Worth the Misery?

Q. I have a new boss and he is making me miserable. I have five more years before my pension kicks in, and I want the money in that pot. I feel like I have earned that pension money, but I can’t stand my new boss, and I wonder if I should just leave. I am torn. I don’t know how long he’ll stay, so maybe I can wait him out. How do I decide what to do?

A. Five years in a job you enjoy can fly by, and those same five years can be an eternity in a situation that makes you unhappy daily. To decide what to do, focus on accurate information and generate options you can accept.

Assess what is happening on the job and what it is about your boss that is making you miserable. Changing reporting relationships is full of challenges as each party adjusts. You boss is adjusting to a new job and new staff, and you to a new way of being managed and new priorities.

This situation gives you a compelling reason to assess your financial position, gain a full understanding of your pension, and to focus on what you want from the next stages of your life. Run parallel tracks as you look at your job and your finances.
Many people, at all earning levels, estimate what their financial assets will be as they approach retirement whether they have a pension, IRA, social security or other investments. There are plenty of online tools to run quick estimates on these numbers; AARP provides a helpful one.
However, the reality is you need accurate data. In your situation, you need to know the specifics of your pension and the pension rules. Some people use the term pension incorrectly, and you can not afford to do that. Gather all of the related paperwork from your own files and from human resources. Ask human resources or a benefits specialist at your company to explain the pension rules until you understand them. Meet with your financial planner; if you don’t have one, get referrals and spend time with a fee only financial planner.
Once you know what your financial situation is, you’ll know what the value of your pension is now. You’ll understand the impact of leaving your company now or at some point between now and a future date. Having this information about your financial situation in full, is what gives you options. Is the pension more valuable than what you might make in a new job through increased earnings, stock options or awards? Does staying at your job until you can get the pension improve your financial situation enough to make that an acceptable alternative?
Perhaps staying on the job looks better to you with time? Maybe you can develop a better relationship with your boss, or does the pension value encourage one option over the other? These may not be easy decisions, but having accurate data leads the way to having confidence in the decision you make.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners
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