Illinois’ (Baa3 stable) pension funding slightly improved under our adjustments in the year ended June 30, 2018, despite higher unfunded liability figures that the state reported December 7 (see Exhibit 1). Rising interest rates that lowered liabilities, combined with favorable investment returns, drove down the state’s adjusted net pension liability (ANPL) by an estimated 2%-5% in the year. Nonetheless, Illinois’ recent pension funding gains lag those of other states, largely because of its weak contributions and rising payouts.
Heavy pension burdens have weakened credit quality for many Illinois cities in recent years, but some Illinois municipalities have maintained exceptional credit profiles.
Without changes to New Mexico’s two statewide cost-sharing pension plans, municipalities’ elevated pension burdens will intensify. Although pension contribution rates are set by state statute, if rates increase through legislative reform, local governments will likely be responsible for these cost hikes.
Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s Investors Service, Sector In-Depth, Local government – US, December 18, 2018
Adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPLs) reached new peaks for most of the 50 largest local governments (by debt outstanding) in fiscal year 2017 reporting, due to poor investment returns and low market interest rates. Most governments report pension funding with up to a one-year lag, so favorable investment returns in fiscal 2017 and 2018 will lead to a decline in ANPLs through many of those governments’ 2019 reporting. Nonetheless, pensions continue to drive historically high leverage and elevated annual costs for some governments, and risks from potential pension investment losses are significant…..
Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 16, 2019
• Volatile markets could affect future pension costs and funding status.
• States might need to offload pension costs to local governments.
• Updated disclosure on reported retiree health care obligations could heighten awareness and spur reform.
• States continue to pass pension reform and sustainability measures in an effort to manage costs and improve system health.
• The combination of environmental, social, and governance obligations and retirement obligations could also stress long-term government costs.
In this economic recovery period since the Great Recession a decade ago, many state and local governments faced rising costs and risk further increases related to funding long-term pension and other postemployment benefit (OPEB) obligations. S&P Global Ratings incorporates a forward-looking view of pension risks to costs in its credit opinion and ratings approach. As we look forward to fiscal 2019, we believe there are five key trends related to pension and OPEB liabilities that could have implications for future government costs: market volatility; states’ offloading of costs to local governments; retiree health care liabilities; pension reform; and the management of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) obligations and retirement obligations.
Recent national surveys show health care costs are a top concern in U.S. households. While the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces receive a lot of media and political attention, the truth is that far more Americans get their coverage through employers. In 2017, more than half (56%) of people under age 65 — about 152 million people — had insurance through an employer, either their own or a family member’s. In contrast, only 9 percent had a plan purchased on the individual market, including the marketplaces.
In this brief, we use the latest data from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey–Insurance Component (MEPS–IC) to examine trends in employer premiums at the state level to see how much workers and their families are paying for their employer coverage in terms of premium contributions and deductibles. We examine the size of these costs relative to income for those at the midrange of income distribution. The MEPS–IC is the most comprehensive national survey of U.S. employer health plans. It surveyed more than 40,000 business establishments in 2017, with an overall response rate of 65.8 percent…..
Source: Daniel L. Morrell, Kristie A. Abston, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, Published January 7, 2019
From the abstract:
Millennials are currently the largest generation at work and will reach an estimated 75% of the labor force by 2025. Studies have shown that millennials hold slightly different attitudes toward work when compared with previous generations. They more readily change jobs and are generally less committed to their organizations, with an estimated 66% of millennial employees planning to leave their current company within 5 years. These differences in work values necessitate changes in current approaches to compensation and benefit packages that would better align with these changing values. The goal of this article is to review recent empirical data on Millennials as compared with previous generations and then offer suggestions for what changes might improve retention.
Source: John G. Kilgour, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, Published January 7, 2019
From the abstract:
In recent years, student loan repayment programs have emerged as the hot new employee benefit. However, their growth has been restricted by their lack of favored tax status. On August 17, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service issued a private letter ruling approving a proposal to create such a program within a 401(k) plan. In a deft piece of reasoning, the private letter ruling provides relief from the so-called “contingent benefit prohibition.” This article examines student loan borrowing, the private letter ruling and its likely consequences and limitations.
Retiree health care is one of the fastest-growing line items in government budgets and, in response, some governments are scrapping their traditional health plans.
From the abstract:
A new report finds that teacher pension plans play a critical role in retaining educators while also providing greater retirement security than 401(k)-style retirement accounts. Eight out of ten educators serving in the six states studied can expect to collect pension benefits that are greater in value than what they could receive under an idealized 401(k)-type plan. The study also finds that the typical teacher in these states that offer pensions will serve 25 years in the same state, while two out of three educators will teach for at least 20 years.
These findings are featured in new research, Teacher Pensions vs. 401(k)s in Six States: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas, from the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education (Labor Center) and the National Institute on Retirement Security. The report is author by Dr. Nari Rhee, director of the Retirement Security Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center, and Leon (Rocky) Joyner, vice president and actuary with Segal Consulting.