Monday, November 19, 2018

Mo' Money yet Nary a Difference for PERS

Collection of all PERS posts.  

PERS continues to plod along as its funding level slightly improved to 61.8% despite receiving some favor from Wall Street and more money  from employers.    

The PERS Board of Trustees released the annual report at the October meeting.  The report is posted below.  The report states the funding level increased all of 0.7% in FY 2018 despite a market return of 9.2% on its investments.

The funding level has fluctuated between 60.4% and 61.8% over the last five years even though the PERS portfolio generated an average rate of return of 9.4% during the same period.  A comparison of the funding level and rate of return graphs show that the funding level fell in 2011 and 2012 while the rate of return was 14% and 25%  How many times have PERS defenders said the market just needs to come back for PERS to recover?  The market did come back but the funding level failed to do so. 

The retiree population served by PERS reached a record 104,973 in 2018.  Simply put, PERS can not catch a break from retiree growth.  PERS retirees increased 38% over the last ten years.  There were only 59,400 retirees 15 years ago.   Such growth in turn increased the unfunded accrued actuarial liability to $16.9 billion - an increase of 70% over the last ten years. 

The record number of retirees means PERS must pay more benefits. The decline in active members worsens the problem as the active payroll shrank in 2018 by 1,695 employees.*  Employee contributions were $1.588 billion, $180,000 less than in 2017.  Unfortunately, the assumed employee payroll growth is 3.5%.  The slight decrease in payroll thus placed more stress on PERS. 

Payments to retirees continued to rise in 2018 as they jumped over $11 million to $2.609 billion.  Thus PERS was forced to yet again dip into the investment income to cover the deficit.  The 9.2% return generated $2.486 billion in investment income.  However, benefits payments and refunds fueled a deficit that grew from  $1.003 billion to
$1.145 billion.  Last year was the first time the deficit went over $1 billion.    Thus PERS sees almost every dime of new revenue gobbled up by the ever-increasing deficit.  It must generate at least $1 billion per year from investments if it wants to avoid dipping into assets to pay benefits. 

The deficit between payments and contributions has grown every year since 2000.  Remember how PERS defenders howled in 2011 when Governor Barbour created the study commission?  The deficit was only $470 million when he sounded the alarm.  The deficit has more than doubled in only seven years.

The Board voted to generate another $100 million in employer contributions by raising the rate from 15.75% to 17.4% last summer.  Governor Phil Bryant asked the legislature last week to appropriate an extra $75 million to cover the state's portion of the increase.  Local governments will have to cough up more money for the remaining $25 million.  PERS wasted no time in taking advantage of the new revenue as the report states the amortization period is only 30.9 years - a decrease from 38.4 years in 2017.  

There is no question PERS is in worse shape than it was ten years ago.  The funding level fell from 72.3% in 2008 to 61.8% in 2018 despite an average rate of return of 9% and an increase in the employer contribution from 11.85% to 17.4%. PERS managed to beat its assumed rate of return while increasing the contribution rate 48% during the decade yet its financial condition continues to worsen as the retiree population, benefits payments, and unfunded liability continue to increase with no relief in sight.

PERS Notes

Actives: 150,687
Average salary: $39,813
Retirees: 104,973
Assets: $27.455 billion
Unfunded liability: $16.9 billion
Employer contribution rate: 17.4%
Amortization Period: 30.9 years (38.4 years in 2017)
Investment Rate of Return: 9.16%

*Here are the market returns for PERS since 2000:

2000: 8.4%
2001: -7.1%
2002: -6.6%
2003: 3.5%
2004: 14.6%
2005: 9.8%
2006: 10.7%
2007: 18.9%
2008: -8.2%
2009: -19.4%
2010: 14.1%
2011: 25%
2012: 0.6%
2013: 13.4%
2014: 18.3%
2015: 3.5%
2016: 1.16%
2017: 15%
2018: 9.2%

 Average Return since 2000: 6.42%
5-Year Return:9.4%
10-Year Return: 9%
Return since 2000: 6.57%
Assumed Rate of Return: 7.75%

*Here is the distribution of active PERS members
State agencies: 18%
Higher Education: 16%
Counties: 9%
Municipalities: 11%
Public Schools: 40%

Kingfish note: Don't worry, I'm going to get around to SLRP. 


Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled retirees. You can be forced to take a haircut.

Anonymous said...

Virtually all investments (stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals, land, etc.) did much, much better than these investment returns. I did see where the state bought some land around Vicksburg from Anderson Tulley (I think). Does anyone think Anderson Tulley sold it because they wanted to divest of a growing asset? Not to mention it took this land off of the tax rolls. SOMEBODY is getting rich off of this plan. This might mean a governorship for the new state auditor if he wants to sincerely investigate this mess.

Anonymous said...

Don't be fooled @3:33, the legislature can try and may actually get out of the contract it has with employees and retirees, but it will have the same kind of effect as a bond forfeiture. When you don't pay your contractual obligations, your credit rating suffers.

As a soon to be PERS retiree, I signed up with the State at a lower pay rate than I could have made in the private sector. I did it because of the retirement benefits. In legal terms, that is detrimental reliance and forms the basis for a contract. Now, the State of Mississippi is on the hook for my retirement benfits it promised me and I relied on.

I'll get my haircut, all right. It will be with the 13th check you think the State can take away.

Anonymous said...

The state's land purchase hasn't got jack shit to do with PERS. That was a DWPF debacle and will result in more land for big wigs to hunt.

Let me say this, full well knowing it will get sideways of the blog admin: I don't give a rat's ass for an interpretation from a correspondent who apparently graduated law school but never passed the bar when it comes to financial analysis. Why the hell would anybody else?

If he has somebody else writing his (frequent) analyses regarding PERS then he should credit them with a note as to their fields of expertise. If not, who cares what a self-made correspondent thinks or says in an analysis? We might as well ask Bobby Cleveland or Jeff Goode or the woman who would attend a public hanging.

Anonymous said...

Shows us the contract 4:32.

Anonymous said...

@4:42 PM, why is your rat's ass even here? Seriously, why are you here?

Anonymous said...

So, if I understand correctly, experts such as 4:16 actually believe that finance people like Tater Reeves, Lynn Fitch, Tommy Dyson, Ray Mabus and others who have come along before and since as well as our illustrious governor who has served in multiple capacities and even his-excellency Mabus who served as auditor (and lead seabee in the Navy Department) and who benefits from a thrteenth check...have zero knowledge of how investments work...and we need a new under-35 auditor to come in and spot a bunch of shenanigans? Shit and God almighty you people are fools.

Anonymous said...

4:55; Probably the same reason you are, but of course you manage the site. I enjoy the blog. Does that mean I can't spot rat shit and call it when I do?

As to 4:43, the State Personnel Board handbook is available for your perusal on the internet. Newsflash! It's a contract.

Anonymous said...

5:01, if someone is close to retirement, as was said, they went to work for the state before Ronnie Musgrove and Tim Ford decided to gift to the employees (certainly had nothing to do with buying of their votes, as Democrats have been doing since the Great Society days of LBJ) with the 3% compounded COLA now referred to as a 13th check. When they went to work, their "contract" did not provide for that provision - so they can't now claim that it can't be changed.

intelligent_guy said...


I am truly confused. Of whom are you speaking? Kingfish? If so, what's not to understand about what he has said in this or any other article about PERS? This isn't high-level financial analysis. It is actually pretty simple math. PERS is broken. But don't feel badly - so are the state/municipal pensions in about 3/4 of these 50 United States as well...

intelligent_guy said...


Because you referenced it, I went to the Personnel Board website and looked at the handbook. I am assuming that you and all other state employees signed an acknowledgement or something like that, because I didn't see any sig pages in the handbook itself that would constitute a contract. Furthermore, the Personnel Handbook only has a few summary paragraphs referencing the PERS Member Handbook, which I also downloaded and perused. It didn't look like a contract to me. The only thing that seems to be set forth in stone is that an employee is entitled to a refund of THEIR contributions to PERS upon termination (and both handbooks explicitly state that the EMPLOYER contributions are non-refundable). I didn't read either doc word-for-word, but I never saw any guarantees of any specific benefits.

Anonymous said...

5:48 - We all thank you for your presumptive but uninformed opinion; however, you may want to consult an Employment Law Attorney before wagering anything of value on your claim that an employee handbook is not a contract.

Anonymous said...

5:17 - Your analysis is inaccurate. A revised handbook supersedes previous versions. You might even find a statement to that effect in revisions.

If you have a 1955 version of the Mississippi Driver License Examination Handbook, do you seriously believe the 2014 revision does not supersede it?

Anonymous said...

Um, it’s as much of a contract as your expectation that you will get paid on payday. Same thing.

Anonymous said...

Oh joy anonymous asshats trading ghost punches on the keyboard.....

The state will raise taxes on everyone to pay for this mess.

So you can both go back to making your spouses miserable now.

Anonymous said...

The state will raise taxes on everyone to pay for this mess.

Not for the whole mess. It is too big. Haircuts are guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

The question is why does the state have 3 separate retirement systems? 2 of which seem to be doing poorly. Not sure about SLRP or why it even exhists. Do other states have special retirement systems for their legislature?

Anonymous said...

The legislature and state leaders (past and current) have kept their thumbs stuck squarely up their asses for years with regard to PERS much the same as national politicians with Social Security. They continued to sweeten the pot for underserving beneficiaries (including themselves while ignoring the cost i.e. SLRP). Meanwhile, they continue to chase bullshit (minor) issues of spending to keep the ignorant masses from seeing just how negligent they have been when it comes to tackling the real issues.

Anonymous said...

8:44 - Spot on. Only a handful of our elected officials are smart enough to come up with a solution but even the dumbest among them (there are many) recognize the problem.

Nothing will be done. The are too cowardly to make the tough decisions and too stupid to become unemployed after the Sh T hits the fan.

Anonymous said...

The State of MS spent 90 million on a museum, they have plenty of money.

Anonymous said...

Is it being suggested that anybody who enjoys this blog should agree with the blog admin in all of his opinions and bloviations? It would appear 4:55 believe we should not 'even be here' if we object to the Blog writer's opinions and analyses. That's odd.

As with 100% of Salter's opinion pieces, with Kingfish's analysis, charting and opinions, it's deju vu all over again and tell us something we don't already know.

Sure, the system needs hard study and some fixes.

Anonymous said...

7:28....never will happen. PERS represents too many voters.

Anonymous said...

5:42 - Obviously this figure doesn't apply to retirees, but I'm willing to bet that 70% of those currently employed in a PERS position are African American and 80% are female. And that ancillary reality will certainly enter the conversation from multiple directions.

Anonymous said...

Why does race or gender have anything to do with this?

Anonymous said...

9:23, let’s start from the top....Phil Bryant, Tate Reeves. Delbert, Mayor Mary, Mayor McGee, Mayor Fisher, Marshal Fisher, the teenage auditor, the whole legislature, most of the DPS, most of Ole Miss and MSU faculty and staff, etc etc .....your claim is likely off a bit.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line @5:42? The pyramid is now upside down. You can't tax your way to PERS solvency. The Legislature will not act until the full blown crisis arrives. When the crisis arrives the problem will be too large for the tax base to shoulder. Haircuts WILL happen. The only question remaining is when.

Anonymous said...

11:55 - It matters because half the legislature is scared shitless that they'll be accused of dealing a bad hand to black folk. And the other half are either black caucus or beholden to that group.

Anonymous said...

The nerd who keeps using the term 'hair cuts' in multiple posts has become boring.

Kingfish said...

Our 4:00 AM drunk as usual never refutes a single number, fact, or figure reported in the PERS posts. He just name calls and throws tantrums. It's what he does best when not griping about people from Jackson shopping north of County Line Road.

Anonymous said...

4:42 We understand you don't like it... one of those "tough" things in life you must deal with.

Anonymous said...

Interesting reading on this site. I would like to see a little more evidence.

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