Corporations are transferring pension liabilities to third parties. Where does this leave retirees?
Maybe you just like the way things are going. You may not want the responsibility that goes with reinvesting a huge sum of money.
What is the case for taking a lump sum? One line of reasoning has to do with time. If you are retiring with serious health issues, for example, you may want to claim more of your pension dollars now rather than later.
Or, it may be a matter of timing. If you need to boost your retirement savings, a lump sum may give you an immediate opportunity to do so.
Maybe you would like to invest your pension money now, so it can potentially grow and compound for more years before being distributed. (As a reminder, pension payments are seldom adjusted for inflation.) Maybe your spouse gets significant pension income, or you are so affluent that pension income would be nice, but not necessary; if so, perhaps you want a lump-sum payout to help you pursue a financial goal. Maybe you think a pension income stream would put you in a higher tax bracket.2
If you take a lump sum, ideally, you take it in a way that minimizes your tax exposure. Suppose your employer just writes you a check for the amount of the lump sum (minus any amount withheld), and you direct that money into a taxable account. If you do that, you will owe income tax on the entire amount. Alternately, you could have the lump sum transferred into a tax-advantaged investment account, such as an IRA. That would give those invested assets the potential to grow, with income taxes deferred until withdrawals are made.2
Consult a financial professional about your options. If you sense you should take the lump sum, a professional may be able to help you manage the money in recognition of your financial objectives, your risk tolerance, and your estate and income taxes.