Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Swedish lesson on privatizing pensions

Every spring Marie-Louise Graveleij, a 62-year-old receptionist in a funeral home, receives a large orange envelope in the mail. Now it has become her lifeline, offering what might be her only alternative to a full-time job.In approximately six weeks' time, she said, she will end her current work contract and will decide whether to retire. The orange envelope contains a statement of her benefits under a five-year-old restructuring of this country's generous state pension plan that, like the changes that President George W. Bush wants to introduce in the U.S. Social Security system, includes a personal investment account.

The question is: Will she get by on what the envelope offers?As in other countries where private accounts have been introduced in various forms, the answer seems to be ambiguous."I felt everything was going to be simple. This is Sweden!," Graveleij said, musing over her understanding of her pension entitlements before and after the changes. "I didn't worry about it before. I felt safe.

I felt everything would be OK. Then, the safety net was gone."Even after poring over the statement of benefits, she said, she was still not sure whether she would be able to afford the $450 monthly rent on her 400-square-foot apartment. "Everything has become very complicated." Link

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