A Comprehensive Guide to AT&T Retirement Plans

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 6 in 10 workers in the United States feel stressed when having to prepare for retirement. And while 7 in 10 report that they are prepared for life after their career ends, only approximately 1 in 4 feels very confident about their readiness.

If you are currently employed or were previously employed by AT&T or one of the regional “Baby Bells,” you are fortunate enough to have access to a reliable employer-sponsored retirement package. However, in order to understand the terms and conditions of the AT&T retirement plan, it’s necessary to conduct the research and speak with an experienced and trained plan administrator who has worked with current employees and retirees of the telecommunications firm, so that you can maximize the benefits of your pension & 401(k), allowing you to plan appropriately for your life after your career has come to its close.

Based in Alpharetta, Georgia with locations all over the Southeast, Merit Financial Advisors specializes in wealth management for clients who have worked in the telecommunications industry, including AT&T. Their advisors have developed a nuanced understanding of AT&T’s retirement packages over the years, as part of a larger aim to correct the country’s retirement crisis by developing long-term relationships with their customers. Whether you’re approaching retirement or starting your career in telecommunications, Merit recommends reviewing the following guide to understanding AT&T retirement plans.

An Overview of AT&T Retirement Plans

Eligibility & Calculation

The modified rule of 75 determines what benefits they qualify for like retiree medical, medicare plans, life insurance, retiree discounts.  What year you started determines if you have a pension or not.  They no longer offer pensions for new employees. 

Regardless of whether you work at AT&T or another telecommunications firm, anyone planning for retirement should first calculate the amount of money they need to survive without a paycheck for the remainder of their life—this should include all estimated costs, as well as a savings fund for emergencies and unforeseeable expenses. In order to understand what benefits you will qualify for through ATT and what your expenses will be, you will also need to familiarize yourself with the company’s “modified rule of 75”, which can be understood as a combination of service points determined by your age and the term of your employment and you must meet both the age and years of service eligibility. For example, if you’ve worked for at least 25 years and are 50 years of age or older, you are eligible for retirement, as 25 + 50 = 75. If you are 51 with 24 years of service then you would qualify under the old rule of 75 but not the current “modified” rule of 75 since your years of service are less than the 25 years for that bracket.  You can reach the minimum break point through various combinations of retirement age and employment term, but here is a chart to help you make the calculation yourself.

Retirement Age  
65 or older
55 or older
50 or older
Any age
and
and
and
and
Term of Employment  
At least 10 years
At least 20 years
At least 25 years
At least 30 years

Note: Management positions require a minimum of 30 years of service. If retirement is taken before the age of 55, benefits will decrease. For employees with a minimum of 5 years of service, you are eligible to receive your pension at the age of 65. For previous Craft employees, you will have two separate pension accounts. Not sure what we are referring to here.

The Pension Benefit Plan: An Example

AT&T offers previous and some current employees with a standard pension benefit plan, which is available in a variety of programs for different types of workers. Since the majority of Merit Financial Advisors’ clients are part of the Craft & Management pension plan, here is a brief example to show you how this type of plan works:

  1. 1990: Employee is hired and signs up for the Craft Pension Plan, which uses pension bands based on the position and term to determine benefits that are distributed as monthly payments into the employee’s account (for the sake of this example, the employee is placed in the 120 pension band).
  2. 2021: Employee would like to retire after serving for 31 years. To calculate their monthly pension payment, the employee would multiply their benefit—in this case, $71.75, since they’re in the 120 pension band—by 31 (years of service). So, the employee could expect $2,224.24 in monthly payments.

Note: If promoted, the employee could be eligible for another package, which would then require further calculating by their retirement plan advisor to determine the amount.

Someone else would need to look at this as I am not familiar in manual calculations of Craft Pensions.  I use the netbenefits site to estimate pensions since there are so many pensions out there (ATT cash balances, old ATT pension, BLS pre99 mgmt and craft).  And I pull up the calculation details because whats listed on their homepage only shows the ATT cash balance plan not all available pensions.  Mgmt employees gets to choose their highest pension and Craft gets both.  But the homepage only shows the new ATT cash balance.  You have to run an estimate and pull up the calculation details to see all available plans available. I wonder if we should talk more about the fact that there are many pensions out there and how to accurately run an estimate.

Bridging

For employees that left the company for a period of time and returned at a later date, an AT&T retirement plan administrator will need to help you determine how your pension will be affected by bridging. If you’ve transitioned from Management to Craft, or the other way around, for example, you could potentially have two pensions and two 401(k) plans. When calculating your benefits, it will be necessary to understand the nuances of the terms & conditions and make adjustments to the formula as necessary.

Annuity vs. Lump Sum

Once you are eligible to draw your pension, you will be given two options: receiving the money in a lump-sum or payments to your bank account for the rest of your life. Some retirees decide to request the money in a single payment so that they can work with their financial advisors to invest the money themselves and see a bigger return, flexibility in cash flow needs, and have the confidence their hard earned money will be passed down to their family when they pass; others decide to receive payments because regardless of how long they live, they can expect to continue receiving benefits.

Other Factors to Consider

As you progress in your career, you should reassess your eligibility for pension and benefits at regular intervals, as several factors, such as your age, life expectancy, current interest rates, and income needs can all influence the timing and amount of money received. Additionally, receiving your benefits in a one-time lump-sum payment could be advantageous when interest rates are low, but when interest rates are on the rise, your lump sum could be negatively affected.  You are missing out on more money from annuity. It’s also important practice to pull your pension calculation details each year and save that document if you are legacy Bellsouth because you might have a “non-decreasing lump sum” feature on your pension that you will need to keep track of yourself. Finally, if your income needs change over time and you need to pull money out of your retirement, then this will of course affect your plan.

Speak with an AT&T Retirement Plan Administrator Today

Discover everything your AT&T retirement plan has to offer by contacting one of the wealth management specialists at Merit Financial Advisors now. Not only has our team of advisors worked with clients across the telecommunications industry, but we have served as long-term resources for current and former employees of AT&T, making us more than qualified to assist with your retirement planning.