Category Archives: Retirement

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.

The 401(k) Student Loan Repayment Benefit Program

Source: John G. Kilgour, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, Published January 7, 2019
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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.

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.

State and Local Governments’ Fiscal Outlook: 2018 Update

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-19-208SP, December 13, 2018

From the summary:
What’s the prognosis for the fiscal health of state and local governments across the nation?

Our annual outlook suggests the sector will have an increasingly tough time covering their bills over the next 50 years. Our model shows both revenue and spending will increase; however, spending will rise faster. Revenues may be insufficient to sustain the amount of government service currently provided.

Our model also suggests health care costs will largely drive the spending increases—in particular, Medicaid spending and spending on health benefits for state and local government employees and retirees.
Related:
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Rising U.S. States’ OPEB Liabilities Signal Higher Costs Ahead

Source: S&P Global Ratings, November 28, 2018
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Other postemployment benefit (OPEB) liabilities, which consist primarily of retiree health care plans, are a growing concern for certain states’ credit quality and require attention to control higher future costs. Total unfunded state OPEB liabilities have increased significantly for the third year in a row, according to S&P Global Ratings’ latest survey of U.S. states.

Latinos’ Retirement Insecurity in the United States

Source: Jennifer Erin Brown, National Institute on Retirement Security, December 2018

From the summary:
This report finds that inequalities in access and eligibility to employer-sponsored retirement plans are contributing to persistent retirement savings gaps for Latinos. As a result, Latinos are falling even further behind in preparing for retirement. Only 31 percent of all working age Latinos participate in workplace retirement plans, resulting in a median retirement account balance equal to $0.
The research finds that:
– Access and eligibility to an employer-sponsored retirement remains the largest hurdle to Latino retirement security.
– The retirement plan participation rate for Latino workers (30.9%) is about 22 percentage points lower than participation rate of White workers (53%).
– When a Latino has access and is eligible to participate in a plan, they show slightly higher take-up rates when compared to others races and ethnicities.
– For working Latinos who are saving, their average savings in a retirement account is less than one-third of the average retirement savings of White workers. Overall, less than one percent of Latinos have retirement accounts equal to or greater than their annual income.

How Much Income Do Retirees Actually Have?

Source: Anqi Chen, Alicia H. Munnell and Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, IB#18-20, November 2018

The brief’s key findings are:
– Recent research has re-documented that the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) understates retirement income.
– Some have wondered if this problem also applies to other surveys and calls into question decades of research that suggest many are ill-prepared for retirement.
– To answer this question, the analysis compared estimates from five commonly used national surveys to administrative data from the IRS and Social Security.
– This comparison shows that:
– the CPS continues to substantially understate retirement income, but
– the other four surveys – the SCF, HRS, SIPP, and PSID – track closely with administrative data, and
– estimates of retirement preparedness using a reliable survey find that roughly half of older households may fall short in retirement.

Related:
Working Paper

State Public Pension Funds’ Investment Practices and Performance: 2016 Data Update

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, Issue Brief, September 26, 2018

Substantial investment in complex and risky assets exposes funds to market volatility and high fees.

From the overview:
State and local public retirement systems held $3.8 trillion in assets in 2016, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available. With the retirement security of 19 million current and former state and local employees at stake, sound and transparent investment strategies are essential.

In a bid to boost investment returns and diversify portfolios, plans in recent decades have shifted away from low-risk, fixed-income vehicles in favor of stocks and alternatives such as private equity, hedge funds, real estate, and commodities. In 2016, half of plan assets were invested in equities, a quarter in alternative investments, and another quarter in bonds and cash.

Investment performance over the last five to six years has, for the most part, tracked plan target rates, with average returns of about 7 percent. However, during the same time frame the fiscal position of public funds has not improved, and in most cases has declined. And while equities and alternatives can provide higher financial returns, they also leave funds vulnerable to market volatility and the risk of shortfalls. Furthermore, as our population ages and the number of retirees grows, cash outflows increase, adding more pressure to pension fund balance sheets.

Because earnings on these investments are expected to pay for about 50 to 60 percent of promised retirement benefits for public workers and retirees, careful attention to reporting and transparency has become increasingly important. In particular, understanding the impact of market volatility on public plans and their sponsoring governments’ budgets is critical for policymakers and stakeholders. Mandatory stress test reporting and full disclosure of asset allocation, performance, and fee details are therefore essential to determining whether public pension plans have the ability to pay promised retirement benefits…..