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Growing gap fuels pension envy Add to ...

He calls it our "Modern Feudal System."

A system where a few have a lot and the majority have - or will have - very little indeed.

The difference-maker in our futures, says Bill Tufts, is going to be our pension plans. Public or private. Gold-plated pensions versus pensions that might not even hold a coat of yellow paint.

"Church and King have been replaced by Government and Big Business," says the Hamilton-based pension specialist with WB Benefit Solutions. "In the feudal age, the church and nobility always wrestled for the purse of those trapped in the caste system. But the poor serf still paid with everything he grew or could make."

On his blog (fairpensionsforall.blogspot.com) and in articles and talks, Tufts has been arguing that the average public servant in Canada will end up with a pension valued at close to $1-million - while the average taxpayer is looking at retirement with less than $150,000 in RRSPs or a small company pension.

The world financial meltdown, he says, has created a situation in which private-sector pensions are under siege - some to the point of vanishing - while public plans are not only protected but, in certain cases, will be topped up in the event of a shortfall by taxpayers who will never collect such a pension themselves.

"People are resentful," he says.

He also says people are becoming increasingly aware of the situation. The North American media have called it "pension envy," while the British press has warned about a "pension apartheid" in which retirement lifestyle will be decided largely on whether or not the retiree collects a healthy, protected and often indexed public pension, or a squeezed and potentially fragile private one.

Tufts's message is not popular in certain quarters. He calls himself a "libertarian" with a deeply conservative bent, and says he understands perfectly why some government and union workers would lash out at him when he talks about the growing and unfair "gap" between their pension plans and the plans of most Canadians.

"There's a lot at stake," Tufts says. "I would be struggling just as hard as them to keep what I had."

For more pension talk, please go to globeandmail.com/blogs/this-country

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