Blogging Employee Benefits

November 1, 2006

By Any Other Name

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 6:17 pm

This is not the first time I’ve amended the title of my pensions and benefits weblogging. Except whereas my previous change came on the heels of discovering a non-EB blog that had already been using the name I’d originally given this effort, this time I’m risking blurring lines with one of the best teams in my own field, the new Pension & Benefits Blog recently launched by BNA’s Pension & Benefits Advisory Board, a veritable who’s who of the industry.

Although I’m not a BNA subscriber myself, who with any pension or benefits experience at all is ignorant of the subscription service Pension & Benefits Reporter, along with its companion Pension & Benefits Daily? So even before BNA’s new blog, I was not at all comfortable with the replacement name I’d settled on as a temporary placeholder here. But now that BNA’s brought us this new blog – and a great one at that – it’s simply too inappropriate for me to carry on calling this what I’d been calling it. More than once now, and in more than one place, I’ve seen the names of our respective efforts unnecessarily confused.

And yes, despite researching this all yet again for the past several weeks since BNA’s blog was launched, somehow I do suspect that it’s a matter of time before I feel compelled to rename this yet again. Out of several dozen alternatives I won’t bother reciting here, at first I began settling on the simpler “Blogging Benefits,” but there are already too many articles where that title seems more connected with the concept of the advantages, usually to a business enterprise, of maintaining a blog (which I imagine BNA themselves might already be tuning into). As I suggested before, I’m a whole lot more creative with QDRO design than I am with weblog titles. But such as it is and for what it’s worth, from here on through to the next name, we’re “Blogging Employee Benefits.”

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October 17, 2006

Unique

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 7:47 am

I’m one in 300 million.

August 15, 2006

A Brief Word on Comments

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 9:02 pm

Is there somewhere under the new PPA, that it is now possible for non-spouse beneficiaries named in a defined contribution plan to roll over their inheritance into their own beneficiary IRA to take advantage of the lifetime withdrawal rather than receiving a lump sum?

P&B Weblog comment

I think you’re looking for the new IRC §402(c)(11) added by PPA §829. As explained in section VIII.C.9 of JCX-38-06. Although if so, don’t run out Thursday afternoon after the President signs the legislation into law and try it out right away: as prescribed by PPA §829(b), only distributions after this year can use the new rule.

But now if you’ll pardon me for using this as an opportunity for a digression about one aspect of my blogging, let me first very quickly point back over to my weblog’s disclaimer: please never regard anything on this weblog, whether in the comment exchanges or in my postings or in the supplemental files I’ve started playing with, as anything other than casual banter. Even in something as simple as the applicability of the provision cited above or a finger pointing over to the effective date, never take anything presented here as legal counsel or any other professional advice. I know I’m probably being rather hypersensitive to persist in pointing that out about the most innocuous little mind meanderings I get into here, but I do have my reasons for pretty much having abandoned any serious practice, and I don’t particularly care to return. So although I’m more than comfortable feeling like I’m only talking to myself here, I tend to get a little cautious about any actual exchange.

And then one additional word, while I’m taking the opportunity. On any other comments that have been passed through or that might come in past this (other than the stupid spam comments, which multiply the curses on themselves with every silly attempt): I’m not ignoring any of the real traffic. I simply don’t always have something worth saying in response.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. And good luck, if PPA §829 was what you were seeking.

April 2, 2006

Blogging Nunc Pro Tunc

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 5:18 pm

Not in this weblog. Entirely personal preference, with no intended implications to others' practice; but here, timestamps on posts or comments signify the exact time (U.S. Eastern) when I first hit the "Publish" button on a completed item. I won't postdate or predate. Nor will I push out a partial posting just to register a particular timestamp, then fill out the entry in the succeeding minutes. Since this weblog is meant primarily for my own purposes, keeping chronological vs logical index to developments of interest to me, I could quite easily excuse shifting to a personal preference of dating my posts according to the key development involved, as that would give me a truer chronological index with correct timing for any items for which that might be relevant. Except I do already do that in a local Excel spreadsheet with hypertext links to my weblog posts (among numerous other links of value to me) and the weblog posting timestamps, but in that spreadsheet adding data for the timing of the underlying decision, action, or item. So my own private investigations thereby satisfied, I can let the weblog software keep to its own timestamping as is.

Which means that when a post's timestamp shows an aggressively early time, such as 7:48am for this past Friday's posting on FASB's pension/OPEB proposal, you know I had pretty much already written most of the post based on what we all knew from FASB's board meetings the past few months, then simply kept pinging the FASB website throughout Friday morning until the exposure draft material was actually available (around 7am), so caught that wave very early on. In contrast, when I had something like Friday's decision on the United retired pilots' appeal in my hands almost the instant it been posted on the 7th Circuit's website, yet waited until today to venture posting here about the ruling, you can pretty much guess that I've either been busy elsewhere or – as was the case here – feel unprepared to make immediate comment until I've read or researched further. I'm working background here on a posting regarding the Social Security Administration's regulations this past week on its new disability determination process, but at the rate I'm plodding through that, it might not be until next weekend before that one shows up in this weblog. In all such instances, the timestamp here refers to when I publish to the weblog, not to any past or future time.

Here's another insignificant example: reference to the pension freeze movement as an "ice age." I've seen the Washington Post's Crenshaw credited with coining that characterization, possibly by reference to his 1/29/2006 article. Again, the point is negligible for any substantive purposes; but as an example of the logistics I describe in this particular post, for the record, my posting almost 2 weeks earlier was contemporary, not nunc pro tunc, nor was that posting or its title revised after its posting. In fact, the movement had been referred to as an ice age over a year earlier, when the original agenda that included session 407 of the 2005 Enrolled Actuaries Meeting was set (although I myself only learned of that older reference earlier this month through a colleague from the actuarial side of the fence, me being alien to those circles).

After spending too many years keeping my browser favorites sorted only by index categories, I have welcomed the advent of blogging as a powerful tool to help me emulate something BenefitsLink has done almost since the dawn of the Web: track my websurfing chronologically. For my own purposes, that works best here if I simply keep the timestamp WordPress gives to my posts, without revision forward or backward.

February 25, 2006

Remedial Amendments for Weblog Errors

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 9:24 am

Not making the error in the first place means it doesn’t have to be corrected.

Blog Business World

Applied to pension plan documents, my practice gags at that heresy! No matter how perfect the design, no matter how careful the language, there’s always need for one more plan amendment, isn’t there?

Says something, maybe, maybe not, about the distinctions between the professional style we adopt for the formalities, versus blogging style still in its early stages of evolution. Hell, is there even a blog equivalent to the authoritative Web Style Guide out there yet? Aren’t we all pretty much adopting our own journalistic standards, be it style or procedure or content, partly reflecting our own professional rituals, but with some vague new age blogfog making everything a little fuzzy?

So then, what to do with blogging errors? An actuarial blogger might pull the blogging equivalent of a reversion without blowing everything away on excise taxes, that being one acceptable way of dealing with actuarial error. As for this scrivener, from start to bitterest end, this weblog will remain primarily my own personal record, for my own purposes, to keep my own track of where I’ve been and where I’m going. I know I have others who will read over my shoulder from time to time, but if they overhear me reading out loud, I can’t be defending myself for mispronouncing some word I was only trying out for myself. Besides, as I probably ought disclaim more religiously and frequently (if that’s not too redundant), none of the traffic here is intended nor should ever be used for professional reliance.

That said, I’m sufficiently perfectionist that I can’t bear not to find any error in anything I’ve previously committed to print, much less bear to leave it imperfect once I’ve discovered any particular weakness. So were I to be left entirely to my own preferences, I’d continuously tweak postings back through the entire stream. Somewhere between revising it so much that the RSS feeds are bloated with repetition and leaving an obvious error or obsolete portion intact must be some balance that even this fresh medium ought be able to wear comfortably. Even this will be amended and extended as I proceed, but for now —

  • Simple Errata – Misspellings, grammatical mistakes, and the like, I’ll make every attempt to catch before or within the first 24 hours after posting. Apologies if tweaking within that period duplicates an RSS feed, but I’m not going to bother pointing out where any simple correction is made. And beyond 24 hours after a posting, just excuse any simple errata, as I won’t bother with it past then.
  • Broken Links – Sites like the CMS don’t seem to understand that web surfers don’t appreciate relearning navigation every other month and certainly can’t trust a link farther than one can throw a byte. But I won’t revise an entire entry just to update a link, rather will pop a comment to the entry to give the latest place the nomad target feels like casting its tent.
  • Updates – Simple updates I’ll also pass through comments to entries; in due course, as my portfolio of content grows, there may be many days when I post more through comments than through main entries, so would suggest that any reader syndicating this weblog consider picking up the comment rss feed along with the main feed. On major updates, where the new information deserves an entire posting in its own right, I’ll include a link to the previous posting, which will add a comment under the earlier entry, hopefully keeping everything closely enough coordinated.
  • Major Errors and Obsolescence – If I ever discover a major substantive error in an entry, or if new information completely reverses or obsoletes earlier posting, not only will I post a new entry identifying the error or update, but will not leave the previous entry dangerously intact. In revising the earlier entry, I will clearly identify the changed text, without deleting the original version (which I’ll typically switch to strikeout text).

* * * * * Practice of perfection makes perfect practice. * * * * *

February 21, 2006

WordDepressed

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 3:38 pm

Been a while since I posted about blogging itself, instead of skating around through recent traffic on pensions, benefits, and compensation. WordPress hiccups force me to take a little break.

Whenever I try to edit and save a page, such as Web Resources (the one currently listed under the “Zoo,” not the fake one I can’t get rid of currently listed above the “Zoo”), WordPress is re-saving the page as a blog posting. This is the sort of disruption that forced me against use of various other blogging tools I tried before coming over to WordPress, the same sort of disruption that finally compelled me to leave Internet Explorer in the ditch it kept throwing my work, the same sort of disruption that I have not had the patience to throw good time after on so many other software efforts that don’t seem to care to beta-test before throwing an update onto a user. If WordPress can’t keep an even keel to its service, I’ll be back out on the street, hunting again.

Meanwhile, I need to change the name of this effort already. I was never all that happy with “BeneBlog” to begin with, but that sort of creativity is not where my talents shine most, so I’d just grabbed something short and sweet. Seems there’s been a BeneBlog for several years already, not on pensions or employee benefits, and they haven’t found me yet to the best of my knowledge, although it’s inevitable that we’d bump heads if I don’t change mine. Only, so far nothing else appeals to me.

And I’m closing out one sidebar I’d been keeping for simple news tracking. Microsoft has already stolen too much productivity from me; I’ll just find some other place to keep news clippings.

I need a good court decision to sink my teeth into. Blogging today has felt too much like two steps back for each step forward. I’m leaning on blogging and associated web tools to enhance my touch with current traffic in my practice, not to drag me down from what I could just as easily do on my own.

January 27, 2006

Costs and Benefits of Anonymity

Filed under: P&B Blog — Fuguerre @ 8:00 am

The Supreme Court has made clear that anonymous speech deserves First Amendment protection.

David L. Hudson, via Robert J. Ambrogi. Finding the freedom to speak or write without the stifling chokehold of reputation has long been an obsession for me, even before the Internet opened up new forums and tools for doing so. No matter how well I learn a topic and work through its various facets to make it my own and create new ideas for it, something entirely new emerges from somewhere inside beyond by own touch and control when I step out to write or speak on it. That shouldn’t be any less so liberating to my head just because I feel the prophylactic compulsion to slap a Circular 230 disclaimer on every page, nor because I might feel any pressures in the camraderie of professional equals, nor because I might have any general or specific dispute with my partners or the regulatory authorities. Yet it’s so: the name I have to use when my signature is required is too frequently as much an interference as it is any endorsement, as much a weight as wing.

Blogging is not the first I’ve stepped outside myself to speak my mind on the things I know best. From the hours I’ve spent simply speaking out loud in an empty room to the ripe pleasures of exploring the depths of ERISA with someone who cared to listen without having an ounce of knowledge about the terms and precedents, from ghost-writing articles that have seen wide publication among my peers to times when I moved through professional conferences my name badge left behind in the hotel room, from the piles of pages in my office that were never written to be distributed to the megabytes I stored in the search for a blogging tool that might suit my style, I have long had a presence that has enjoyed vacations from identification.

Reliance in this field does require a degree of qualification, notoriety some might call it. An expert computer technician might blog about a medical interest as a hobby, but we wouldn’t want to depend on the product to guide a life-saving surgery. If you will be taking advice on your qualified plan to a session with the IRS, you’re going to want that agent to be enrolled, not just blogrolled. Well, this is not that. I permit this a degree of public exposure for a complex mix of reasons I’ll explore in some other musing one of these light-traffic weekends; and I do appreciate the exchanges these forums permit, where we can share arcane expertise without dressing up in our courtroom suits. But I am not here to market, nor to teach, nor to blow any whistles, nor for any other purpose for which my name might be required. I’m just here for the joy of the free speech.

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