How is a benefit plan like a bus route?

School bus flashers are for the safety of the children on and off the bus.

A benefit office is supposed to make decisions for the benefit of the beneficiaries. A bus route should be concerned first for the safety of the children.

On the main road connected to my subdivision, two different school districts have bus routes running in opposite directions. The road is a two lane semi-rural, 50 MPH road. I’d add, drivers routinely move at 60 MPH or more.

Lake Orion School District buses travel southbound. Rochester Community Schools travel northbound on the very same road; it’s Adams Rd. for those interested in the particulars. In both districts, the bus stops on the road or shoulder but does not turn into the subdivision.

Lake Orion has chosen to tell bus drivers not to use the red flashing stop safety lights when picking up the children. And, by contrast, Rochester Community Schools does instruct drivers to turn on their red safety flashers.

In speaking with the state police, they say both can be correct; in a technical manner the law has options. State police also said, stopping with the red flashers should be preferred always for safety but that some schools get complaints about traffic flow.

How is this like a benefit plan? Benefit plans also must make decisions based on priorities. For example, all retirement plans make promises to working employees that they will have financial safety in retirement.

Let’s compare two cities, the City of Detroit promised benefits over the last 40 years or more to working employees as did the City of Pontiac. Both cities made promises for retirement security.

We all know the Detroit bankruptcy story; when there was no more money for Detroit retirees, they had dramatic reductions in their promised safety net. Compare that story to the City of Pontiac; they made the same promises but backed up those promises by setting aside funds adequate to pay the promises.

So how are the bus route and retirement the same?

Decision-making determines these outcomes. In my experience, some decision making groups have more orderly processes for making decisions and others do not. Also, the priorities guiding those decision making groups should be set to serve the community or employee group.

Like Rochester public schools putting children first. The school board had likely been approached to turn off the safety lights but chose child safety first. They had their priorities in order that any parent would agree with. This takes leadership from a community school board to set the priorities of the children ahead of complaining motorists selfishly worrying about their drive time.

Similarly for benefits, the City of Pontiac used an ordered priority for their decision making, they wanted to provide the promised benefits and took action by funding benefits from City general funds.

Sadly benefit plans frequently suffer from similarly disordered priorities as occurred with the City of Detroit who didn’t adequate funds aside to fund retirements. Not to mention all the greed from individuals taking from the fund; who were supposed to Steward those funds.

bus-stop-flasherObviously, in election season, I’d be remiss if I didn’t connect this to the election. Personally, I’ve had enough of selfish interests of individuals who put themselves ahead of their community or organization. We shouldn’t reward that behavior by keeping them in their roles. Cast your vote for the candidate least selfish.

As a side note, as I make my daily commute along this road with two bus routes, I rue the day, a Lake Orion child is involved in an accident and hurt, or worse, killed. There will be no politician standing behind the decision to turn off the flashers to benefit hurried commuters.

If you want your benefit plan retirement promises to come true, elect leaders who will follow through on promises.

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