Street Signs

More Firms To Cut, Alter Pensions In 2007

Corporate profits are up -- and corporate pensions appear solid. But "Street Signs" guest Alison Borland says more companies intend to terminate their pension plans this year.

Borland, a senior benefits consultant for Hewitt Associates, told CNBC's Erin Burnett about the bad news -- but why it may be less painful than some might expect. First of all, she reassured American workers that the majority of companies offering pensions are not likely to make any changes.

Pensions Pumped

The consultant then gave a breakdown of those who do intend to shake up the retirement applecart -- and how they plan to do so. According to a Hewitt study, current employees at 94% of firms needn't fear the absolute loss of pensions, as a mere 6% of companies with plans said they are likely to exclude new hires from being covered. A little more than one-tenth of companies that offer pension plans are "very likely" to redesign them.

That "redesign" is apparently where the new face of retirement security begins: Borland said the pension act signed into law last year "gave us some clarity" -- that is, gave employers more leeway to avoid closing down the plans altogether, by finding alternatives to high-cost funding methods.

She said that more and more companies are examining "asset allocation," that is, shifting assets to react to -- and hopefully, act ahead of -- changes in the equity markets.