Category Archives: Pensions

2018 NCPERS Public Retirement Systems Study

Source: National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems and Cobalt Community Research,January 30, 2019

From the press release:
Fueled by strong investment returns, public retirement systems continued to strengthen their funding levels and fine-tune their assumptions, according to an annual study by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems.

The 2018 NCPERS Public Retirement Systems Study underscores the success of efforts by pension trustees, managers, and administrators to make steady improvements that enhance the sustainability of pension funds, said Hank H. Kim, executive director and chief counsel of NCPERS. ….

…The 2018 study draws on responses from 167 state and local government pension funds with more than 18.7 million active and retired memberships, actuarial assets exceeding $2.5 trillion and market assets exceeding $2.6 trillion. The majority—62 percent—were local pension funds, while 38 percent were state-wide pension funds. NCPERS conducted the eighth annual study in September through December 2018 in partnership with Cobalt Community Research.

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Illinois (State of) – Pension funding improves, but lags other states due to weak contributions and high payouts

Source: Ted Hampton, Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s Investors Service, Issuer Comment, State government – Illinois, December 18, 2018
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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.

Local government – Illinois: Ability to absorb pension costs supports exceptional credit quality for some cities

Source: David Levett, Rachel Cortez, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s Investors Service, Sector In-Depth, Local government – Illinois, December 14, 2018
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Heavy pension burdens have weakened credit quality for many Illinois cities in recent years, but some Illinois municipalities have maintained exceptional credit profiles.

Local government – New Mexico – Pension burdens will continue to weigh on credit quality, prompting potential reform

Source: Heather Correia, Roger S Brown, Naomi Richman, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s Investors Service, Sector In-Depth, Local government – New Mexico, December 18, 2018
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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.

Adjusted net pension liabilities rise for most of the 50 largest local governments in 2017

Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s Investors Service, Sector In-Depth, Local government – US, December 18, 2018
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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…..

Five U.S. State And Local Government Pension And OPEB Trends To Watch For In 2019 And Beyond

Source: S&P Global Ratings, January 16, 2019
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Key Takeaways
• 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.

Infrastructure: Elixir for Long-Term Pension Liabilities?

Source: Daniel Bauer, PA Times, January 4, 2019

Two primary drivers critically impacting both budgetary considerations and public policy processes for the foreseeable future regardless of revenue and service selection are pension liabilities and infrastructure. One tends to be historical in context while the other is futuristic in its scope. Both pension liabilities and infrastructure face headwinds. Both issues transcend interest groups. Both issues potentially advocate fairness and social equity across a broader spectrum of citizens arguably more so than others.

In this continuing series of articles exploring public infrastructure, the combination of unfunded liabilities for both public pension funds (estimates range from US$1-$3 trillion) and infrastructure (estimates ranging from US$1-$5 trillion) conjure up public policy and financial dilemmas constraining even effective discourse. Over the long-term, as difficult as it is to imagine, maybe one unfunded liability poses an opportunity to resolve the other unfunded liability. Can infrastructure be an elixir for long-term pension liabilities? ….

Teacher Pensions vs. 401(k)s in Six States: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas

Source: Leon (Rocky) Joyner, Nari Rhee, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education (Labor Center) and the National Institute on Retirement Security, January 2019

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.

In Case You Missed It: S&P Global Ratings’ U.S. Public Finance 2018 Pension And OPEB Research Recap

Source: S&P Global Ratings, December 13, 2018
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S&P Global Ratings’ U.S. public finance team continues to highlight key pension and other postemployment benefit (OPEB) trends. In 2018, our research has provided comprehensive national and regional insight on these obligations and rising governmental costs to inform a forward-looking view on credit risk. In case you missed them, we have compiled a list of research reports published in 2018 on these topics.

Local government – Illinois: Ability to absorb pension costs supports exceptional credit quality for some cities

Source: David Levett, Rachel Cortez, Alexandra S. Parker, Moody’s, U.S. Public Finance, Sector In-Depth, December 14, 2018
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Heavy pension burdens have weakened credit quality for many Illinois cities in recent years, but some Illinois municipalities have maintained exceptional credit profiles. Such cities typically have drawn on their strong legal revenue-raising flexibility and high median family incomes (MFI) to support increased pension contributions while maintaining strong reserves. However, credit quality could deteriorate for even these cities if they do not continue to absorb growing pension contributions and keep already high unfunded liabilities in check…..