Can You Afford to Retire

About the Film:

Can You Afford to Retire? reports that the past quarter century has seen a massive shift in the cost and responsibility for retirement saving from corporations to employees. One major driver behind this shift is a corporate bankruptcy strategy that enables companies to terminate lifetime pension programs. FRONTLINE takes viewers inside the story of United Airlines, whose bankruptcy left tens of thousands of workers with reduced pensions. The documentary reveals problems both with lifetime corporate pensions and employee contribution plans such as 401(k)s that are projected to leave baby boomers without sufficient retirement income. FRONTLINE correspondent Hedrick Smith (The Wall Street Fix, Is Wal-Mart Good for America?) investigates this looming financial crisis, and the outlook for middle class Americans.

Can You Afford to Retire? is 60 minutes long. If time permits, teachers can use the film in class or assign it as homework. Discussion questions and appropriate classroom activities provided in this guide can be used with or without the film.

A Note to Teachers:

For classes in Social Studies, American Government, Current Events, Language Arts, Economics. Grade level 9-12.

Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan:

Concession: The Game
Students will engage in a game that explores, from Workers' and a Company's point of view, what each is willing to give up in order for the Company to stay in business and for the Workers to keep their jobs.

Featured Lesson Plan:

How Much Will You Have When You Retire?
Students will become familiar with:

Additional Lesson Idea:

Letter to the CEO
Students will write a letter to Glenn Tilton, CEO of United Airlines, evaluating his actions in bringing United through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Additional Resources:

An annotated list of relevant Web sites.

Purchasing the Film:

Can You Afford to Retire? can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed in its entirety on FRONTLINE's Web site: http://www.pbs.org/frontline/retirement/


This teacher's guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Ellen Greenblatt of San Francisco University High School. Educational consultant Patricia Grimmer and Joshua Weiner of Benson Polytechnic High School, Portland Oregon served as advisers.