The Hardship of Six-Figure Pensioners

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An observation from Dan McGowan’s story, today, on a Providence pension trial:  Rhode Island insiders are so disconnected from the reality of everybody who isn’t an insider that they really do feel put-upon and belittled when the public reacts with incredulity to tidbits like this:

Waters, who rose to battalion chief during his 24-year career in the Providence fire department before becoming chief of the fire department in Wellesley, Massachusetts, said the loss of his 5% compounded COLA has forced he and his wife to put “international travel plans” on hold. He also explained that he’s been unable to help one of his sons as much as he’d like because the strain on his finances.

“Because we’re afraid,” Waters, 68, said. Although he said he and his wife, a retired state employee, remain in good health, his “nightmare” is that she’ll get sick and he’ll have to put her in a nursing home.

During a cross-examination by William Wray, one of the attorneys representing the city, Waters acknowledged that he and his wife live off of four pensions, which combined to pay them nearly $153,000 in 2014. Waters also acknowledged that he purchased a BMW in 2014, after the city changed his retirement benefits. The line of questioning from Wray drew groans from some of the 25 retired public safety workers gathered in the gallery.

The retiree making about three times the state’s median household income in retirement is so scared of not receiving cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that he’s canceling international vacations, but not so scared, apparently, that he opted not to buy a BMW recently.



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