By the time Kodak emerges from bankruptcy--if it perchance achieves even this moderate goal--it would have a tiny footprint. The company's management is reorganizing Kodak as a "much smaller, leaner enterprise focused on commercial, packaging and functional printing and enterprise services." It will also have lighter debts and a much reduced retiree obligation, thanks to bankruptcy court judge Allan Gropper who agreed Kodak should terminate many of its obligations to retirees," according to a report in USA Today. "Individuals may see their life savings lost or lose their jobs," the judge said. "Bankruptcy can have a particularly painful effect on retirees."
Really? Tell that to Kodak's retirees who counted on the company to continue providing generous benefits long after they had left the company and who must now seek alternative medical and survivor obligations. Many of the ex-employees cited in news reports blamed Kodak's management for mismanaging the company's affairs and for failing to anticipate or foresee the major technological changes that ended its domination of the photography market.
The news that Kodak's current management wanted to ditch many employees and substantially cut retiree benefits hit me hard initially as I thought about all the naïve folks who based their lives on two wrong assumptions. The first was that the company would continue to be the undisputed leader in its market segment, and second, that it would unfailingly stick with the agreement to provide those benefits. They were wrong on both score.
Well, there is the Pension Guarantee insurance fund, so there's a chance that Kodak employee pensions will be covered by the taxpayer---I don't know the details of course, so this is just a speculation.
BTW, Kodak saw the 'electro-optical' revolution coming and made one of the first digital cameras---I even owned one. They just didn't innovate fast enough to gain market share in this area, perhaps because they weren't an electronics company and couldn't drive the cost curve low fast enough.
I think the advice to control your own retirement savings is prudent - even essential.
However, trusting government legislation and regulation to protect these assets seems to avoid the largest risk.
Does anyone truly believe that if (I would argue _when_) the dollar really collapses in a hyperinflationary death spiral, that the all-benevolent federal government will not seize these assets - whether by higher confiscatory tax rates or outright confiscation?
This really is part of a bigger issue in that people don't work for a company long enough to make pensions reasonable - the demographically the readers of this site are pretty secure, but the majority of the US population - the vaulted "middle class" with little employment representation, constant job hopping, loss of seniority/security life can be very different. As free agents many of us would like to think we can manage career, 401k's, house and other investments well, how many of us knew/planned for the changes in industry over the last 20 years - the internet, manufacturing move China, real estate drop, the rise of Apple ect.. Hopefully, as mentioned before, if you are diversified you are doing well - we used to know what to expect (more a fantasy as of late) and now we each have "control", but with the dynamic nature of the economy these days how many of us can feel very secure?
56,000 employees have now had a major financial hit. Why is it all or nothing, could Kodak have paid something (or are they)? And how much is the US Government going to have to pay to cover the difference?
Not really about 401K. These are "untouchable" by a company that has failed. They are usually managed by a 401K finance management company (Fidelity, etc.) This is about:
"retiree medical, dental, life insurance and survivor income benefits."
It is very sad that the swift change to digital photos wrecked this once great company. Say what you will about them reacting too slow...it is still a sad day for people who spent their lives devoted to a company to have it come to this.
There is something to be said about managing your own retirement through an investment vehicle such as an IRA or 401K. But I fear that even 401K's and IRA's may not be as safe as many believe.
There are many ways that these can be pillaged: Excessive management fees, illicit bankers and brokers, phony investment funds, etc.
My real fear is that without stricter protection through legislation, no one will be safe. Someone somewhere at sometime in the future will raid proples returement funds on a mass scale 401K's and IRA's. It just hasn't happened yet.
I don't think the ultimate form of an individual retirement account (i.e. physically holding Au) is the answer either to many ways to take it from you either by force or law.
The same fate suffered by many auto workers, even after the industry was "saved" with infusion of taxpayer contributions. That's how GM was saved.
When I was just starting out in my present career, one of my colleagues told me that we don't owe any special allegiance to the company. In a real sense, we are all free agents. The company can drop us at any time of their choosing, and likewise we should feel that we can move on, with no compulsions, if opportunities arise.
Kodak was in an especially difficult spot, I think, because their main business was in film. Not so much in photographic equipment. Film is replaced by reusable sensors, and other companies, also struggling in some cases (what happened to Yashica/Contax?), make the equipment.
I hope the Kodak retirees have well diversified retirement pension/savings plans.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.