Younger employees entering the workforce rarely ask companies about their pension plans. Most just assume traditional pensions are nothing more than a perk of the past.

That's becoming more true every year as the nation's largest companies move away from traditional pensions for employees. Eighty nine of the nation's 100 largest companies offered new employees pensions in 1985. Today, only 37 offered such a benefit to new hires, according to an Associated Press report last week.

Traditional pensions are a greater incentive for employees to remain loyal. But with poor stock market performances and low interest rates, companies are often hard pressed to keep the benefit. They are more likely to have changed to the traditional 401 (k) or similar defined contribution plan that allows workers to put away pre-tax dollars with most employers matching some of the money. Workers also have some choices about investment options.

So-called hybrid pension plans that combine the benefits of a traditional pension and the portability of 401(k) plan have come under fire from older employees who claim the plans reduce the rate at which older workers accrue benefits at the very time when traditional pensions award more substantial benefits.

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