Category Archives: Retirement

The Illinois Public Pension Funding Crisis: Is Moving from the Current Defined Benefit System to a Defined Contribution System an Option That Makes Sense?

Source: Jourlande Gabriel and Chrissy A. Mancini, Illinois Retirement Security Initiative, A Project of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, 2007

from the press release:

Springfield, IL (Monday, May 7, 2007) – A new study released today at the Statehouse has found that – contrary to widespread perception – switching from Illinois’ current defined benefit system to a defined contribution system will do nothing to solve the state’s $40.7 billion unfunded pension liability and would likely result in much lower retirement benefits for public employees and higher costs for taxpayers.

The study, “The Illinois Public Pension Funding Crisis: Is Moving from the Current Defined Benefit System to a Defined Contribution System an Option that Makes Sense?”, was conducted by the Illinois Retirement Security Initiative, a project of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. The study finds that the conventional wisdom that switching to a defined contribution system will solve the state’s massive unfunded public employee pension liability is provably false.

A Parity Plan For Dual Eligibles: The Home and Community Services Copayment Equity Act of 2007

Source: Maribeth Bersani, Nursing Homes: Long Term Care Management, Vol. 56 no. 6, June 2007

Before January 2006 and the implementation of Medicare Part D, dual-eligible assisted living residents (those who receive Medicaid and Medicare benefits) were exempted from remitting co-payments for their prescription drugs. The exemption from co-payments was also applicable to individuals residing in skilled nursing homes, as well.

Under the new Medicare Part D program, however, dual-eligible residents in assisted living communities are not exempt from prescription drug co-payments. This has created a severe financial hardship for these residents who are already living on very low incomes. The only discretionary income most of these residents have is a Personal Needs Allowance (PNA)—frequently less than $60 per month. Residents use the PNA to pay for clothing, personal hygiene items, over-the-counter medications, and any other necessary items they need. To have to use this meager allowance to cover prescription drug co-pays is a true hardship.

Does It Pay to Save?

Source: Laurence J. Kotlikoff and David S. Rapson, National Center for Policy Analysis, NCPA Study No. 298, June, 2007

Summary

Does it pay to save? The answer is often no. In fact, penalties for saving are astronomical for some households, particularly young, single-parent and lower-income families. But these are the very people who need the strongest incentives to save for retirement.

Determining the effective marginal tax on additional saving is difficult because of the complexity of the tax code and the interaction of different government tax and transfer programs (such as food stamps) that are limited to households below certain income and asset ceilings. Saving and wealth accumulation can put a family over an asset limit and cost thousands of dollars in lost benefits.

To calculate the effective marginal tax on saving, this study uses financial planning software that carefully determines tax and transfer payments at each stage of a person’s life, based in part on economic choices they make in prior periods. The model assumes people try to even out consumption over their lifetimes.
The results: For single parents with two children, effective marginal taxes on savings are regressive – lower-income households pay higher rates than high-income households.

+ Full Report

Social Security: The Chilean Approach to Retirement

Source: Christopher Tamborini, Congressional Research Service, Order Code RL34006, May 17, 2007

Over the past few years, there has been intense debate about Social Security reform in the United States. A number of options, ranging from changing the benefit formula to adding individual accounts, has been discussed. The policy debate takes place against the backdrop of an aging population, rising longevity, and relatively low fertility rates, which pose long-range financial challenges to the Social Security system. According to the 2007 Social Security Trustees Report’s intermediate assumptions, the Social Security trust funds are projected to experience cash-flow deficits in 2017 and to become exhausted in 2041.

As policymakers consider how to address Social Security’s financing challenges, efforts of Social Security reform across the world have gained attention. One of the most oft-cited international cases of reform is Chile. Chile initiated sweeping retirement reforms in 1981 that replaced a state-run, pay-as-you-go defined benefit retirement system with a private, mandatory system of individual retirement accounts where benefits are dependent on the account balance. As a pioneer of individual retirement accounts, Chile has become a case study of pension reform around the world. Although Chile’s experience is not directly comparable to the situation in the United States because of large differences between the countries, knowledge of the case may be useful for American policymakers.

The Reeducation of CalSTRS

Source: Steven Brull, Institutional Investor, April 2007

A little learning is a dangerous thing. But not when it comes to running the nation’s second-biggest pension fund. For years the California State Teachers’ Retirement System was the epitome of a creaky, mismanaged bureaucracy, toiling in the shadow of its cross-town sibling, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Its membership—public school and community college teachers—felt neglected. Its investment staff was underpaid. Its returns in most years were at best mediocre. That has all changed. CalSTRS has awakened from its slumber, emerging as a powerful force on the local and national stage.

Old Promises, Emerging Bills: Considering OPEB in Public Finance Ratings

Source: Fitch Ratings, March 22, 2007
(subscription required)

As the first deadline for implementation of Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement No. 45 (GASB 45) approaches, Fitch Ratings has further developed its thinking on the credit implications for state and local governments of providing long-term funding for other post-employment benefits (OPEB). This report follows up on Fitch Research in June 2005 titled “The Not So Golden Years (Credit Implications of GASB 45)” (available on Fitch’s web site at www.fitchratings.com). It focuses on how the various approaches to managing and funding the liability will affect Fitch’s credit analysis, rather than on meeting the reporting deadlines set forth by GASB 45, as Fitch expects such compliance from issuers it rates. Failure to comply will be considered a weak management practice. This report also examines several governments that have taken prudent actions related to OPEB.

Retiree Health Benefits Examined: Findings from the Kaiser/Hewitt 2006 Survey on Retiree Health Benefits

Source: Hewitt Associates: Frank McArdle, Amy Atchison, and Dale Yamamoto, Kaiser Family Foundation: Michelle Kitchman Strollo and Tricia Neuman, Findings from the Kaiser/Hewitt 2006 Survey on Retiree Health Benefits, December 2006

Employers continue to play an important role in providing health insurance coverage for pre-65 and age 65+ (Medicare-eligible) retirees. Employer-sponsored plans help bridge the gap in coverage for workers and spouses who retire before they turn age 65 and are eligible for Medicare. Today, an estimated 3.8 million early retirees (ages 55 to 64) and dependents receive health coverage from an employer or union. Without these benefits, early retirees often face significant challenges finding affordable coverage in the individual market, leading some to return to the workforce to gain access to health insurance. Employer plans also provide highly-valued supplemental benefits to more than 12 million retirees now on Medicare. For retirees on Medicare, employer plans remain an important source of prescription drug coverage, and provide additional cost-sharing protections, including limits on retirees’ out-of-pocket expenses.

Kaiser/Hewitt Survey Of Large Employers Finds Most Intend To Maintain Drug Coverage For Medicare Retirees In 2007 And 2008

Source: Craig Palosky, Larry Levitt, and Maurissa Kanter, Kaiser Family Foundation, Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Out-of-Pocket Costs for Retirees Continue to Rise for Employer Health Coverage

About One in 10 Firms Eliminate Retiree Health Benefits for Future Retirees

As the new Medicare drug benefit nears its second year, nearly eight in 10 large employers expect to continue to offer drug coverage to their retirees and accept subsidies from the federal government to offset some of those costs, according to a new survey of 302 large private-sector employers conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Hewitt Associates.

How Are New Retirees Doing Financially in Retirement?

Source: Craig Copeland, EBRI Issue Brief, no. 302, February 2007

Although there has been extensive analysis of the accumulation of retirement assets in the United States, limited research has been done on how quickly Americans use their assets in retirement. Utilizing data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), this Issue Brief examines those currently between ages 65 and 75 to determine their levels of wealth in retirement, how those levels have changed, and to see if this group is on track for a financially secure retirement.

Paying for Promises

Source: Jonathan Walters, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 5, February 2007

Call it the six stages of GASB 45: anger, denial, sorrow, acceptance, study and action. That’s been the general response to a new set of governmental accounting rules that ask state and local governments to spell out the costs of their promises to provide retired employees with health care as well as other post-employment benefits.