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How do you get pension payout estimates?

December 26, 2012: 6:30 AM ET

My husband was downsized a year ago. He is eligible to start taking a pension from his former company, but they refuse to give him any information with regard to projections. How do we decide when to start his pension if they won't tell him the difference in payout for year 62, 65, etc.? — M. Anderson

If you haven't done so already, refer to the section in your husband's summary plan description that deals with early withdrawals. If that doesn't answer your questions, Lisa Germano, president of Midlothian, Va.-based Actuarial Benefits and Design Company, says your husband should get back in touch with the benefits department at his former employer. He should request a statement that lists the estimated value of his pension, as well as what percentage of his pension benefit he'd be entitled to if he withdraws before the full retirement age of 65. Be sure to put the request in writing this time and send it by certified mail so there's a record of it.

According to the IRS, plan administrators must provide detailed financial information about benefit options in a timely manner. "If you have a need to get the information soon," Germano says, "emphasize that time is of the essence."

If you don't receive a reply to your written request within 30 days, you should call the Employee Benefits Security Administration at 866-444-3272. A representative at its hotline will guide you on how to get an answer, and may intervene on your behalf with your employer. Ultimately, if your employer still doesn't give you the information you need, EBSA can help you file a complaint as well.

— Marc Mewshaw

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