As you may have heard, Americans are living longer these days, and that is a huge pain in the ass for pension plans, which would greatly prefer if you died young, for financial reasons. The scope of this "staying alive" problem is now coming into clear view.

The Wall Street Journal has some hard numbers on just how much selfish retired Americans are costing their corporate employers by continuing to live even when they are no longer doing economically productive work:

When GM announced fourth-quarter earnings Feb. 4, it said the mortality changes had caused the funding of its U.S. pension plans to fall short by an additional $2.2 billion and contributed to significant pension losses that will be filtered into its earnings over a period of years.

Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. recorded big charges to earnings tied to their pension and retiree-benefit plans partly as a result of the new estimates, and the changes could have a significant impact across corporate America. Consulting firm Towers Watson estimates the funding status of 400 large U.S. companies could weaken by a total of $72 billion as a result.

Seventy two billion dollars, you surviving old people are already costing the brave corporations that power America and the world, not to mention the S&P 500 index. Any honest analysis of the cold hard economic facts simply does not support the continued lives of retirees with good pensions. I'm not saying that retired GM workers over the age of 76 should be cast out on an ice floe in Antarctica; that would entail a lot of unnecessary transportation costs. There are plenty of ice floes to be found right in the Great Lakes area.

All jokes aside (no jokes have been in this post thus far), what this means is that companies will beat an even faster retreat away from "defined benefit" pensions, which guarantee you some set payout, and towards the kind of pensions where they help you stick your own money in a 401k and wish you luck. And we all know you are not lucky.

[Photo of a retired fella: AP]