What Are the Best Sources for Pension Advice? (with picture)

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell
An accountant can offer pension advice.
An accountant can offer pension advice.

The best sources for pension advice are typically attorneys and tax professionals. Pensions are available to many employees as a retirement benefit. In most places, however, pension programs are governed by complex pension laws. Companies looking to implement or change their pension strategies frequently seek professional advice to be sure that they are in compliance. Individuals presented with a variety of different pension options may also need help making the most appropriate choice.

Most pension advice is given to businesses and employees in the United States. In many other parts of the world, including most of Europe, pensions are automatically issued, if at all, by government entities. Governments make internal decisions about pension planning, but there is rarely a need for external advice.

Americans typically only receive a pension if they (a) work for a qualifying government agency or (b) work for a company that has voluntarily elected to provide pensions as a benefit to retirees. U.S. pension plans are governed by a series of laws codified in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Most U.S. companies that elect to offer pension plans need a lot of advice to be sure that their plans comply with all aspects of that law. The first place that this advice usually comes from is attorneys. One of the primary roles of corporate lawyers is to keep their companies in compliance all governing law &mdash& ERISA included.

Large companies often have extensive in-house legal departments. For basic advice and informational queries, staff attorneys familiar with retirement and corporate benefits law may be able to offer needed advice as a matter of course. When a company is first setting up its pension plan, though, or if it wants to make substantial changes to how an existing pension plan is organized, it may look to outside advice. Dedicated pension law firms and investment firms are frequently hired to advise corporations on a project-by-project basis.

Individuals frequently also need pension advice, often at two distinct junctures: at the moment they opt into a pension plan and once they retire. The majority of pension plan participants have at least some flexibility with respect to plan details, payment schedules, and investment options. While corporate human resources and benefits officers are usually happy to explain the different options to employees, the law usually prohibits them from making recommendations or offering individualized pension tips.

Unless a person already has a family attorney familiar with his financial situation, contacting a lawyer for personal pension advice is not usually the most cost-effective means of getting help. A better option is usually to talk to a financial adviser, such as a tax planner or accountant. Because so much of how pensions are realized relates to overall financial and tax planning, advice from professionals in this sector can be invaluable. Even pensioners in parts of the world where pensions come as a matter of course can usually benefit from financial planning-type pension advice. Structuring a sound retirement plan often requires an understanding of how pension plans work, and how to use pension payments advantageously.

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    • An accountant can offer pension advice.
      An accountant can offer pension advice.