I thought my retirement plan was settled, but life has a way of abruptly changing our plans.
I switched jobs several times in my younger days, back when I hoped to discover some new thing-a-ma-jig, file my patent, and rake in the dough. I became a family man and opted for stability and decent benefits. I landed a job with BNR, a great opportunity, and applied myself to being a loyal employee. BNR was devoured by the parent company, Northern Telecom, ushering in a shell game of name changes and new employee badges. I worked for Nortel, Nortel Networks, and Nortel again, all without changing my desk.
My goal became 55 and off to other interests, and I almost made it. The last company name change ushered in a series of hard times leading to Nortel’s bankruptcy. Seems the pension fund was a billion or so below the minimum funding level and that, coupled with dropping sales, meant the company’s cash was drying up like a puddle under the August sun. Perhaps those in charge of Nortel expected one of the governmental bailouts offered to so many mismanaged companies and the bankruptcy was a plea for help? There was no bailout, though, and a great company with a history of innovations was sliced and diced.
Bankruptcy as a business plan can make financial sense for companies in trouble. Cash hungry pension plans can be abandoned. Medical benefits for retirees can be reduced or stopped altogether. Creditors can be put off. The company can slink away from costly real estate leases with no penalties. It’s all legal. The laws passed by our Congress allow it.
Today, Nortel’s bankruptcy lawyers and various accounting groups are sitting on a healthy $8 billion dollar cash stash – proceeds from the sale of assets and intellectual property. The only ones being paid from that pile seem to be … the lawyers. Financial Post reports professional fees have consumed $800 million dollars since the bankruptcy filing in 2009 while very few claims have been settled.
I’m working on a new career and an adjusted retirement plan, and for sure, I do not want to tote a load of bitterness around. Life hits hard. Stuff happens. Get up. Walk it off. Move on.
Or at least rock a spell and think about it.