How do I know how my pension plan operates and what my pension rights are?

When you have an employer that offers an employee pension plan, whether you contribute to the pension plan from your earnings or not you should know how it operates. In fact, your employer or pension plan administrator is required to give you a booklet, called a "Summary Plan Description," describing your rights, so you should start by reading this book.

Depending on how the pension plan is structured, an employer sponsored pension plan may be an important source of income for you in retirement. Some employee pension plans can seem very complicated, so it’s best if you understand all you can about the way they work. Fortunately, your employer cannot legally withhold any information from you about your pension plan or how it operates, nor can your employer withhold information from you regarding the company that manages your pension funding. This means you can get detailed information about your pension plan just by asking.

If you are confused about your pension plan or simply want more information, start with your human resources department. You can learn about your pension plan rights under the law by visiting the United States Department of Labor and researching the laws that have been set in place to protect you from misleading pension planning companies and frauds. From the Department of Labor, you can order booklets as well as read online about all of your rights regarding your pension plan. After all, it is your pension plan, and you should be able to make sure that it operates to the fullest benefit to you.

If you have concerns about your pension plan or the way it's being managed, or if you believe your employer is not fully disclosing all information to you, it's in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney. A lawyer can help you to interface with the pension administrator to get more information and can help you deal with any violations of your legal rights that may be taking place.