UMass Boston

Pension Resources

These fact sheets and publications are intended to provide general information only; they are not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Read our disclaimer.

Under each category, download a document by clicking on its title. 

General Retirement Information

Keeping track of your pension

This fact sheet includes general tips on how to protect and keep track of your private pension benefits.

The differences between defined benefit pension and defined contributions

In recent years, more and more employers are offering employees defined contribution plans instead of defined benefit plans. Although there has been a shift away from the defined benefit pension plan, it is important for employees to understand the difference and value of both pension plans. Each type of pension plan has both advantages and disadvantages. What may appear as an advantage to one person might seem to be a disadvantage to another person.


Understanding the specialized language of retirement plans

Whether you are a participant in a defined benefit plan or a defined contribution plan, the realm of pension benefits can be tricky and confusing to navigate. Some of the terminology used might be unfamiliar to the average person. This glossary of common terms associated with retirement plans is meant to serve as a helpful resource for plan participants.


The Labor Department’s new disclosure rule: What could it mean for you?

The Labor Department issued a new rule, effective July 27, 2020, that describes a new form of electronic disclosure for retirement plan information called “notice-and-access.”  This new scheme of disclosure will put the burden of finding retirement plan information on to the participants in the plan. Rather than receiving your retirement plan information on paper through the mail, you could be required to search websites to find that same information. If your employer has chosen to use this “notice-and-access” disclosure scheme you will need to be proactive in seeking out the information you want that, in the past, would have been sent to you by mail.


The Labor Department’s Notice-and-Access Disclosure Rule: The Basics

The Labor Department has issued a new rule for electronic delivery of plan disclosures to retirement plan participants, called “notice-and-access.”[1] The rule is effective July 27, 2020.[2]  The new rule replaces prior guidance on electronic delivery of disclosures to participants, with the exception of a 2002 electronic disclosure rule.[3] The 2002 electronic disclosure rule remains in effect and permits electronic disclosure to employees who work with the employer’s computer system as part of their daily duties and to those participants and beneficiaries who choose to receive disclosures electronically.

Protecting Retirement Savings

Protect your pension: Important documents you should keep

No matter what kind of pension or retirement plan your employer offers, you should keep certain documents indefinitely to ensure that your retirement benefit is paid correctly. Based on our experience with finding lost retirement income and assisting workers and retirees to get the benefits they have earned, we recommend that you save certain documents. This fact sheet outlines what these important documents are.


Protecting your retirement savings from potential creditors

State and federal laws provide strong protections to New England residents to shield their retirement savings from creditors. The particular protections available depend on whether you have filed for bankruptcy, how your retirement savings are kept, and where you live.


Pension Rights After Divorce

A pension earned during marriage is generally considered to be a joint asset. However, it is up to state divorce courts to decide whether and how pension assets are divided, and whether survivor benefits are payable.

Private Pensions

Getting the most out of your 401(k)

In order to safeguard your economic security, it is important to know if you are getting the most out of your 401(k) retirement savings account. This fact sheet provides basic information about enrolling in a 401(k) retirement savings account and important items to keep in mind once you are enrolled.

Protect your 401(k) when you leave your job

Don't become one of the millions of Americans who lose track of a 401(k) account. How can you protect your 401(k)? Take these important steps to hold on to your money. 

How to track down your lost 401K

If you've lost an old 401(k), you're not alone. Americans have lost track of billions of dollars sitting unclaimed in 401(k) accounts. How can you find your lost 401(k)? Read this fact sheet for steps you can take to track down your money.  



My company is freezing the pelsnion play: What does that mean?

As employers move away from traditional defined benefit pension plans in favor of defined contribution 401(k) plans, the number of frozen pension plans is rapidly increasing. This fact sheet will explain the differences between a hard freeze and a soft freeze, as well as discuss other plan freeze considerations and your options going forward.



Lump Sum vs Annuity Payments: Which is Right for Me?

As employers are looking to reduce pension plan liabilities, more and more participants are being given the option to receive a one-time lump sum payment from their pension plan in lieu of receiving monthly annuity payments for life. Deciding on which form of pension benefit to take is a very important decision that requires careful consideration. This fact sheet discusses the benefits and risks of lump sum and annuity payments in order to help you achieve a better understanding of your payment options.



What is Recoupment?

There has been an increase in the number of retirees who have been asked to pay money back to their pension plan. Most often this happens because the plan made a mistake in calculating the amount of the pension, and the retiree had no way of knowing that he or she was receiving the wrong amount. This fact sheet discusses recoupments and what you should do if you receive an overpayment notice from your pension plan.



FAQs on SSA Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information

This fact sheet provides answers to questions about the Notice of Potential Private Pension Benefit Information that retirees may receive from the Social Security Administration.

Social Security

Windfall Elimination Provision

If you work for an employer who doesn't withhold Social Security taxes from your salary, such as a government agency or an employer in another country, any retirement or disability pension you get from that work can reduce your Social Security benefits. This fact sheet describes the Windfall Elimination Provision and how it affects retirees.

Government Pension Offset

If you receive a retirement or disability pension from a federal, state, or local government based on your own work for which you didn't pay Social Security taxes, the Social Security Administration may reduce your Social Security spouses or widows or widowers benefits. This fact sheet provides answers to questions you may have about the reduction.

State Public Workers and Retirees

Key Facts Regarding State and Local Government Defined Benefit Retirement Plans

This fact sheet discusses key facts about state and local government defined benefit retirement plans, and the importance of pensions and their funding.


State Retirement Plans and Divorce

Each state has its own rules relating to the division of state employees' pensions in divorce proceedings. This fact sheet includes information on each state retirement system's rules.


Massachusetts state public retirees: How are they doing

Although much has been made of the Massachusetts State Retirement System's funding and abuses, little has been written about the benefits it provides. A retirement system should be judged first on whether it meets its goal of providing for workers in retirement.


Summary of Massachusetts State Pension Reform Law: Chapter 176 of the Acts of 2011

Massachusetts passed significant changes to its public pension system meant to create cost savings for the state and to encourage employees to work longer. Most of the changes apply only to people hired after April 2, 2012. This summarizes the most important changes.


What veterans and their families should know about VA benefits

This fact sheet includes information to guide veterans and their families as they apply for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pension benefits.

Investor Education

Getting the most out of your 401(k)

In order to safeguard your economic security, it is important to know if you are getting the most out of your 401(k) retirement savings account. This fact sheet provides basic information about enrolling in a 401(k) retirement savings account and important items to keep in mind once you are enrolled.


Hardship withdrawals and loans: Some words of caution

Sometimes, when you are facing a financial need, you might look to borrow or withdraw money from your retirement account. This fact sheet highlights some of the reasons why taking these loans and withdrawals might have a long-term impact on a person's retirement security.


Your former employer's 401(k) plan

When you leave a job where you have participated in a 401(k) plan, you may have a number of different options about what to do with the money in that account. This fact sheet explains those options and offers guidance about the pros and cons of each option.


Finding a financial plannner

This fact sheet provides information on how to find the right financial planner to help you meet your retirement planning goals.


401(k) Plan Expenses

It is important to familiarize yourself with the various types of fees and expenses that can affect the growth of your 401(k) plan account balance. This fact sheet summarizes many of these common fees.


Your Retirement Income: Documents to Keep, Questions to Ask

No matter what kind of pension or retirement plan your employer offers, you should keep certain documents indefinitely to ensure that you receive the retirement benefits you have earned. This fact sheet includes a list of documents you should save and questions you should ask.

More Publications

PAC Comments To IRS on Revenue Procedures Related To Recoupment

On July 16, 2015, Ellen Bruce, JD, Senior Fellow, Gerontology Institute and former Director of The Pension Action Center submitted comments to the IRS advocating for retirees rights when faced with recoupment and corrective action taken by pension plans.

Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act (Passed January 4, 2015)

The IL Secure Choice Savings Program Act creates an automatic enrollment payroll deduction IRA. The purpose of the program is to promote increased retirement savings participation for employees in the private sector.

Finding a Lost Pension

The Pension Action Center at the Gerontology Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston was a partner with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in the development of this booklet.

Letter Regarding IRS Form 8955-SSA Participant Notice Requirement

On April 27, 2012, the Pension Action Center wrote to the Internal Revenue Service to advocate for the pension rights of American workers and retirees. The Pension Action Center’s letter was prompted by a request from the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) that plans be relieved of their legal obligation to notify departing workers of their right to a pension.

Letter Regarding PBGC Request for Information on Missing Participants in Individual Account Plans

On August 19, 2013, the Pension Action Center wrote to the Office of the General Counsel of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in response to their request for comments on the implementation of a new program to deal with benefits of missing participants in terminating individual account plans.

The Pension Factor: Assessing the Role of Defined Benefit Plans in Reducing Elder Hardships

This 2009 study looked at the impact of defined benefit plan pensions and concluded:
“Rates of poverty among older households without DB [defined benefit] pension income were approximately six times greater than the rate among older households with DB pension income.”

Testimony Before the ERISA Advisory Council

Ellen Bruce, director of the Gerontology Institute and its Pension Action Center, testified before the ERISA Advisory Council on June 4, 2013. Her testimony provides insight into the issue of lost pensions and outlines policy considerations and recommendations for addressing this problem.

Learn more

Pension Action Center

Wheatley Hall, 3rd Floor, Room 124A
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125-3393 USA


See Also

Pension Rights Center
Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging
UMass Boston Gerontology Institute


The Pension Action Center is affiliated with the Gerontology Institute within the Manning College of Nursing and Health Sciences