Monday, January 14, 2013
Help Me Howard: Lost Pension
A South Florida man is dealing with pension tension. When it came time to retire, he tried to cash in, and he had nothing. Here's tonight's Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- From the time he got out of school, Julio Castaneda worked. Finally, he got to retire.
Julio Castaneda: "Yes, I enjoy it. I can't wait to go out on the boat every once in a while."
Boating, sleeping late, playing with the grandkids, Julio can now do what he wants, when he wants.
Julio Castaneda: "No, no, no. I don't have no complains whatsoever."
Well yes, there is one complaint, which is why we are at Julio's home.
Julio Castaneda: "I found this obstruction that nobody seems to know where are the funds."
In the early '70s, Julio went to work at the Miami Seaquarium, which was owned by Wometco Enterprises. While there, they gave him his letter showing he was vested in their pension plan and would get $300 a month if he stayed till he retired.
Julio Castaneda: "'Well, this is your benefit for retirement.' I said, 'OK, good, great.'"
In the '80s, Julio left the Seaquarium and Wometco was sold to an investment firm which split up the company and sold it off to other buyers. The pension plan ended, and now that Julio has retired, he wants to know where his money is.
Julio Castaneda: "Because when they bought the company, those funds went to somebody else. I said, 'OK, who?' They could not tell me."
Julio looked for his money. No luck.
Julio Castaneda: "I went directly to the Miami Seaquarium myself. I talked to a guy in charge of the office for retirement, and he said that this really wasn't Wometco anymore."
The Wometco Julio worked for doesn't exist anymore, leaving Julio irritated and without the pension he was banking on.
Julio Castaneda: "It's not much, but it's a retirement, and if it's something you earned, why not get it?"
Well, Howard, a company promises a pension when you retire, but the company is sold off. Can you still collect?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes. Even if a company is dissolved or sold, in most cases your pension is protected. Sometimes it's turned over to the federal government to monitor, sometimes it's taken over by the new company, and sometimes the plan is dissolved and the money is given to the employees or former employees who earned it."
It took a while, but after talking to several former Wometco employees, including an attorney for the company at the time, here is what we figured out. The pension Wometco was giving to employees like Julio was very small: $300 a month today if he had worked at the company for 40 years.
When Wometco was bought out in the '80s, the federal government approved a plan to give everyone the payoff from their pension. As for employees like Julio who left before the buyout, I was told they should have been given their pension payoff in their last paycheck. Julio's might have been so small he didn't even notice it was there. I was also told there is a small chance the company made a mistake and forgot to pay Julio, but since that company doesn't exist anymore, there is no one to go after.
Howard Finkelstein: "When you leave a company that offers a pension, get a copy of it, then keep an eye on the company, and if it's sold or merges, find out who is maintaining the pension. A little work will save you a lot of headaches in the future."
Julio Castaneda: "Now I feel a little bit depressed."
We hate to give up, and so, on the off chance the pension money was turned over to Florida's unclaimed funds, we looked at their site and found some cash for Julio from an insurance company, but no sign of the pension.
Julio Castaneda: "I feel very bad about it, but if that's the way it happened, there is not much I can do."
And Julio says he is certain he never got his pension in his last paycheck. What happened to his pension? Since it's been 28 years, we will probably never know. If you can't find a pension, or to find out if you have money on the state's unclaimed funds site, the links to check both are on our website at wsvn.com. You may have money you don't know about at the unclaimed fund site. I did, and found money from 20 years ago. Not a lot, but every little bit helps.
Facing troubles you wanna retire? Need someone to bank on? Contact us. We can't pay a pension, but we will sure pay attention. Hey, that does rhyme. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Unclaimed Funds