Global Investing: Pension Bomb

More big companies face huge obligations to retirees--a new red flag for investors

Your 401(k) plan isn't the only retirement asset spilling red ink on your golden years. Professionally managed pension plans have been taking a beating too, raising issues not just for pensioners but also for stockholders of companies that offer such plans. Collectively, pension funds hold nearly $5 trillion, which secures steady income for millions of current and future retirees. Even though many employers have shifted to such "defined contribution" plans as the 401(k), 7 in 10 of the big S&P 500 companies still provide a "defined benefit" plan guaranteeing employees a monthly check after retiring.

Because of investment losses, most companies...

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