Nowhere is there more sturm und drang these days than in pensions. Will Congress extend relief for under-funded pension plans? Which benchmark will be chosen to replace the 30-year Treasury and when? Will the U.S. adopt European accounting rules that favor fixed-income assets?
One arena in which the debate has been seething of late is over attempts to lift the moratorium on cash balance plans. These pension plans have become the darling of the New Economy workforce--free-agent employees not looking to spend a career with one employer. Companies, for their part, no longer see defined benefit plans that provide the biggest payouts to employees with years of service and approaching retirement age as an inducement for younger, smarter hires. Employers want to keep the new blood flowing and prevent older workers from simply hanging on. Corporate lobbyists claim that hundreds, if not thousands of companies are waiting to convert.