By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe

In response to a flurry of calls from employees
weighing early retirement offers, the Massachusetts
secretary of state has established a partnership with
a regional pension assistance project to help people
sort out the answers.

"The urgency of the problem is becoming apparent to
us," said Secretary of State William Galvin, whose
office has been getting calls about early retirement
and buyout offers. "It's new, uncharted territory,"
Galvin said. "It's the first time we've seen such a
large- scale effort to buy out a whole generation of

As the economy slows, thousands of employees have been
faced with early retirement and buyout offers from
companies as diverse as Lucent, Unisys, Ford, and

As a result, the secretary of state's office "started
to see people with questions about buyouts, pension
plans, and stock options," and decided to establish
the partnership with the New England Pension
Assistance Project to handle the more specialized
questions, said Matthew Nestor, director of the state
Division of Securities, which Galvin oversees.

The partnership involves a $10,000 grant and a formal
relationship with the pension assistance project,
based at the Gerontology Institute at the University
of Massachusetts, Boston.

Jack Pizer, project coordinator, said that just
yesterday, a couple of calls came into the project
from workers about a deadline for deciding on a
retirement offer.

"What people are worried about is whether they should
be taking their money in a lump sum or in the form of
an annuity," Pizer said. "Should they take decreased
benefits at 55 years of age, or wait until they're 65,
when they'll be getting a higher amount?"
Pizer said the project doesn't give financial advice
to individuals. But it can help answer questions about
such issues as their rights under pension law.

The project gets its primary funding from the US
Administration on Aging. It has also received grants
from such organizations as the Boston Bar Foundation,
the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and the state
Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

The new partnership with the secretary of state will
also assist workers in tracking down federally
guaranteed pension funds from former employers that
have gone out of business or merged with other

For free assistance, call the secretary of state's
office at 1- 800-269-5428 or the New England Pension
Assistance Project at 1-888- 425-6067 or 617-287-7307.

The pension project's Web site is