Thursday, February 07, 2008

Trials of an Artistic Career -- Part II

And this drives me even more crazy.

I got another call last Tuesday from an Animation Guild retiree. He anted me to come over to his house Thursday morning, so I did. And he told me his tale of woe:

He's been collecting a pension for eight years, and three years ago -- when he was 68 -- he did some work for a signator company who reported to the plan that he worked forty hours in a month, even though the work really took thirty-eight. As a result, three years later when the Motion Picture Industry Pension Plan audited his account, they reduced his pension by 25%.


Because he was under 70 years and six months of age at the time, and worked 40 hours in one month. And you do that, they take away a chunk of your monthly pension.

This is known as minutia. And it sucks when it bites you in the fanny. But here's the sad truth about any pension plan: the Plan has its book of rules, and it sends you that book (with updates) every few years. And if you don't read with an attentive eye, and know how the rules apply to you, tough noogies. One morning you wake up and discover that your pension has gone down a whole bunch and suddenly you don't have the money to pay the rent.

The good news is, by the time I drove to his house this morning, he'd heard from the Pension Plan that it was going to revoke its 25% pension cut because his three-years-back employer had notified them that it had made an error about the forty hours, and his angst had abated. (And I could have saved myself a trip if I had found out in time, but it was good to see him.)

Since I was there, we had a long talk. I told him that it's really, really important to know the dangerous triggers in Medicare ... or pension accounts ... or whatever. That it's really, really important to read the literature sent out. He said:

"But we're artists, Steve! We don't read!"

To which I replied "Bullshit. You're smart. And there's artists who do know what's in their 401(k) Plans, how the different parts of the Industry Plan fit together, what their investments are doing. You owe it to yourself to do a little homework."

He didn't disagree. On the drive back to the office, I thought about the artists I've met who paid no attention to the boring details of their retirement and lived to regret it. The sad part is, for people who wait until they're sixty-plus to take care of business, it's almost too late.

Moral: Don't wait until it's too late! Pay attention!


Anonymous said...

I never in a million years would have imagined that taking extra work would affect your pension negatively. Does that go for non-union jobs or jobs out the iundustry as well? Thanks, Steve.

Steve Hulett said...

If you work 40 or more hours in a month between the time of your retirement and the age of 70 1/2, you risk having your pension reduced.

You can work a job outside of the entertainment industry without having your pension lowered, but can't work inside the industry, union or non-union.

Understand that I'm painting with a broad brush here, and purposely not going into detail and all the ifs, ands, also buts.

For more specific info, contact the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan. (818-766-7151)

Steve Hulett said...

Uh. Forget the # I just posted. That's Local 839's phone.

The Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plan # is 818-769-0007.

We now return you to someone with a brain.

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