The Other Benefits Mess

A new regulation forces government retirement plans to reveal the cost of their health-benefit promises for the first time.

The pull of public service aside, the lure of government work often lies in the benefits -- the guaranteed pension, generous health insurance and other perks that reward a lifetime of teaching, fighting fires or pushing paper at the county municipal building. The good news for public servants is that courtesy of the recent bull market, their pensions are fairly well assured.

When it comes to other post-employment benefits -- health care in particular -- the story is far different. Says Alicia Munnell, of the Center for Retirement Research, "We know precisely what the assets are -- zero."

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Anne Kates Smith
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Anne Kates Smith brings Wall Street to Main Street, with decades of experience covering investments and personal finance for real people trying to navigate fast-changing markets, preserve financial security or plan for the future. She oversees the magazine's investing coverage,  authors Kiplinger’s biannual stock-market outlooks and writes the "Your Mind and Your Money" column, a take on behavioral finance and how investors can get out of their own way. Smith began her journalism career as a writer and columnist for USA Today. Prior to joining Kiplinger, she was a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a contributing columnist for TheStreet. Smith is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., the third-oldest college in America.