4 tips to ensure an accurate recounting of records when the time comes to retire

Media Contact: Barbara M. Fornasiero, EAFocus Communications; barbara@eafocus.com; 248.260.8466

Royal Oak, Mich.—March 4, 2022—The computerization of retirement records usually turns out fine – until a legitimate dispute arises over the proper level of an employee’s retirement benefits. In that situation, proving one’s years of service, hours worked, or benefit entitlement can be surprisingly difficult, according to John J. (J.J.) Conway, a nationally recognized employee benefits and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) attorney with Michigan-based J.J. Conway Law who has counseled numerous individuals to help obtain their full retirement benefits.

“Retirement benefits are determined by a complex formula of labor, financial contributions, and length of service to an employer – and employer-based retirement assets grow as a result of hours or years spent working, payroll contributions and seniority,” Conway said. “But if an employee’s online records of their financial benefits are inaccurate, trying to re-create a lifetime of work can get complicated.”

Consider this scenario: an employee spends an entire career at a large manufacturing company in different roles spanning both the U.S. and overseas, working the latter part of his career at various plants.  When it comes time to retire, the employee receives a benefit estimate (containing the standard disclaimers), but the employer’s pension estimate is a much lower monthly benefit due to work not being properly credited at now-closed locations with sparse records – if any. Complicating matters is the outsourcing of benefits administration to a company that relies on the accuracy of the employer’s records—a computerized employment record that was erroneous in the first place.

While this type of dispute falls under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), finding quick solutions to problems where there are errors documenting service credit or payroll data are challenging, especially for employees who amassed years of service working in a variety of capacities and are missing data, or where their pension plan administrators have made mistakes.

“ERISA contains some statutory and regulatory record-keeping requirements, but it also allows employers flexibility in their record-keeping methods. Most retirement plans contain so-called correction of errors provisions, which are broadly worded fix-it clauses that allow a plan to resolve an obvious error or mistake in the calculation of a benefit payment. It’s the hidden errors that typically pose the challenge, though,” Conway said.

Conway offers four tips to avoid a difficult record reconstruction process at retirement:

  1. Fully verify the accuracy of all retirement benefits while still employed (before retirement or leaving a company).
  2. Utilize the employer’s HR department or retirement plan administrator’s office to secure printouts of estimated benefits and make appointments with the plan’s agents to attempt to correct any errors while still actively working.
  3. Save copies of the last paystub from every working year while still working. The year-end paystub should have the total hours worked, a record of deductions or contributions, and sometimes seniority information; especially keep records when moving between different offices or work locations.
  4. Secure a final retirement estimate before retiring and do not submit retirement paperwork unless the benefits are accurately calculated.

“Inaccuracies are more common than many employees realize,” Conway said. “Don’t get caught in the unenviable position of having to fight against an employer’s computer screenshot to secure the correct retirement benefits owed to you.”

About J.J. Conway Law
J.J. Conway Law was founded by John Joseph (J.J.) Conway in 1999 to work with individuals seeking full access to the employee benefits they have earned. The firm has been involved with nationally significant employee benefit, disability and pension cases, including class action lawsuits for such landmark decisions as requiring Michigan private insurers to cover autism health treatments for children through age 18 and protecting the pension rights of City of Detroit employees, police and firefighters as well as Wayne County employees by holding their trustees accountable for investment decisions. The firm’s motto is Conquer Tomorrow® and is dedicated to making tomorrow easier for their clients across the United States.  Learn more on the firm’s website.