Tuesday, November 5, 2013

PERS gets mo' money but funding level still falls

The market returned and yet the funding level for PERS still fell.  PERS released the annual actuarial report for several retirement systems it manages last month at its bi-monthly meeting of the board of trustees.  PERS enjoyed a 13.4% return on investments and enjoyed $2.6 billion in investment income but saw the number of retirees grow as payments continued to outpace contributions.

The number of retirees in the PERS system increased nearly 4,000 last year to 90,214 (from 86,829).  The growth shows the main problem facing PERS: there are not enough active members to support the growing number of retirees.  The ratio of active members to retirees fell from 1.86 to 1.79 in 2013.  As the difference between actives and retirees narrows, the deficit between contributions and benefit payments continues to widen.  The deficit increased nearly another $3 million to $644.4 million from $641.7 million (2012).   That is an improvement of sorts as the deficit grew by $60 million to $170 million each year since 2009.  However, the deficit still grew after a great year in the markets.  What will happen if PERS only enjoys a 2% or 6% return in the market? Too technical for you? Here are some charts that will spell it out the problems facing PERS.

Here is the first problem: growth in retirees.  It has not gotten any better and as more employees retire, the costs to PERS will keep going up.  Almost a straight line going in the wrong direction.

PERS does have assets of over $20 billion.  However, the assets have not seen consistent growth since 2008 as they have been used to cover benefit payments when investment income fell short of doing so.  PERS enjoyed investment income of $2.6 billion in 2013 so the assets were largely spared.

However, here is the real problem and it is killing PERS: the deficit between benefits payments and contributions.  2012 saw the largest one-year deficit increase ever: $170 million.  It was only $3 million in 2013.  A huge improvement but still an increase in the deficit.  The $2.6 billion investment income was almost enough to cover the benefits payments but still fell short.  As asked earlier, what will happen when the market returns are not in the double-digits range?  Note: The first few years of the graph are slightly skewed as data was not available for some years. The figures used for this chart are found on page 28 of the report.

Which gives us this problem:

Compare that chart to this one (The green line is the trend line) I created for the annual rate of returns for PERS investments:

  It is clear there are structural issues overwhelming PERS.  As one can see from the charts, the trends are all going in the wrong directions.  The market returns simply do not provide enough income to cover retiree benefits.  There is also a limit as to how much the state can increase employer contributions.  Steve Holland and his friends have been screaming for years that we just need to wait for the markets to come back.  Well my GQ friend, the markets did come back and have come back for several years yet PERS is in worse shape than ever.  The funding level of 57.7% is the lowest on record and 20 points lower than in 1996.  The unfunded liability increased to $15.05 billion from $14.5 billion in 2012 and $12.4 billion in 2011. 

In other words, PERS averaged returns of 13% in the last four years while the funding level fell from 64.2% to 57.7%.  That is the bottom line.

Rates of return 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%

2013 averages:
3-year rolling average: 13%
5-year rolling average:6.74%
10-year rolling average: 7.95%

2012 averages: 
3-year rolling average: 13.23%
5-year rolling average: 2.42%
10-year rolling average:  6.96%

Post on 2012 report

Kingfish note: Treasurer Lynn Fitch did not even appear at the board meeting when the report was presented.  Ms. Fitch has been very quiet on PERS.  She went full speed ahead in shutting down MPACT and making changes to the program when it had a funding level of 80%, yet is strangely quiet over the big elephant in the room: PERS.  Nearly $21 billion in assets, $15 billion in unfunded liabilities, funded at a level of 57.7%, yet not a peep out of the Treasurer.  Actually, not a peep out of the legislature or Governor either.  Several sources have told me no one will take a lead on this problem unless it is a concerted effort by both sides, as it will generate no small amount of controversy.  No surprise as Moak and Cottonchicken see PERS as a chance to smear Republicans and win elections, the actual problems be damned.  Frankly, I think few of any on both sides of the aisle are even smart enough to address the problem and those who are such as Bryan would rather manipulate the politics than actually solve the problem.

That is why my recommendation is to do nothing.  Let the funding level drop to the 40's.  Then the legislature will have no choice. It will have to do something.  Moak and the rest of them won't be able to say much when Moody's and Fitch come calling.

No comments on SLRP.  SLRP is getting a separate post later this week.


Anonymous said...

Take a look at the background of the PERS board members. It's appalling the lack of people with a financial background. It's like having a bunch of McDonalds employees on a medical board.

Dunce Alert Dunce Alert said...

I see Kingfish has been listening to that financial wizzard, Kangaroo, again. Both are simply clueless. It's a defined benefit system, dunce. Those don't work well anymore. But it is what it is. It's simply a giant Ponzi project, not a scheme, just won't work in today's world, just like all Ponzis.

And it has zero to do with the makeup of the board. Every state treasurer over the lifetime of the system has been a board member and several real finance people are always on the board as appointees by the Gov and Gov Light. At one time, when these types of systems (defined benefit) were doing well, Mississippi PERS was the most sound in the nation. The soundness of this program does not correlate with members past or present or future.

People live longer = retirees live longer. Government grows = more enter and retire from the system. Do the math dummy. If the legislature decides to buck-up and change this system (it's needed, no doubt) then they'll do that. Til that time, all the moaning and Homer-posturing by geniuses like Kingfish are farts in a whirlwind.

Anonymous said...

Retirees in Detroit are going to receive 16 cents on the dollar. If that doesn't provide all involved enough pause to get off their asses and act then they deserve the disaster that comes their way.

Don't ask the taxpayers to bail you out.

Anonymous said...

In re: November 5, 2013 at 10:59 AM

I see a gubment retiree found the story.

Your comments make no sense.

Anonymous said...

RE: 11:22 AM

No one has to ask the taxpayers to bail the PERS out. It is in the law that the benefits are guaranteed by the state govt i.e. general fund.

Anonymous said...

10:59 is an idiot. Let meez explainz its to youz in wordeses youz canz understandzeses. Last year a board member made the statement that they should invest in derivatives. Someone not on the board was patiently listening. Finally he had had enough and ask the guy if he knew what derivatives were? He had no idea. Nor did anyone else. This is your PERS BOARD.

Anonymous said...

Let's see how far your law goes 2:10 PM when the remaining 95% of Mississippi's taxpayers saw NO to any more bailouts for a PERS system that refuses to fix itself.

PERS retirees are not exempt from receiving a haircut.

Kingfish said...

So you just pull it all out of the general fund's ass and leave less for Medicaid, education, and other services. Yeah, that will go over real well.

Funny how none of you have refuted my post with actual facts or numbers.

Kingfish said...

and the so-called finance people have been mainly CPA's. Cecil Brown would be a huge improvement than most of them as he is actually a financial planner. CPA's tell you how much money you have, not what to do with it.

The Republicans suggested placing some non voting experts on the PERS board so the system could gain some independent financial expertise. Billy McCoy, Moak, and company blasted them for trying to sell out to Wall Street. They don't want anyone to have an informed opinion about PERS whatsoever. Period.

Dunce Alert Dunce Alert said...

That's the whole point, 2:10. By definition, defined-benefit is a guarantee. Duh. Even Kingfish realizes this. The only way to change it is to change it. It's not a simple matter of claiming taxpayers will be up in arms, they won't.

Nor is it a matter of bitching the problem away. It's a ponzi situation, plain and simple. The retirees can't be blamed, although that seems to be a popular fallacy.

Fact remains, the legislature has tweaked this system to their own personal benefit for forty or more years. Indeed, they have an additional separate retirement system on top of PERS-Regular. And their jobs depend on retention of a failing system.

Outlaw the SLURP benefit and make changes that are sensible. Too many of you are, frankly, idiots.

Kingfish said...

I disagree you can't change them, especially if they were hired before 99 when the last increase went into effect. Were those part of the original contract? Nope.

Just cuz Jim Hood says something don't mean it is so. SO that is why I say let it get down to the low 40's. Its the only way anything will happen.

Anonymous said...

The numbskulls in Detroit equivalent to 5:14 PM spewed the same uninformed crapola. Enjoy your 16 cent screwing.

BEWARE the Dunce Alert Dunce said...

Miss. bond rating downgraded from 'stable' to 'negative'

Fitch Ratings on Tuesday downgraded Mississippi’s bond rating outlook from “stable” to “negative,” saying lawmakers have relied too much on “one-time” money for recurring expenses and continue to raid the state’s rainy day fund to balance the budget.

While the agency did not drop the state’s credit rating from AA+, it warned, “The rating may be lowered if the state is unable to consistently fund ongoing operations without relying on one-time revenue sources, if there is weakness in the economy that diverges from the national trend, or if funding for pension liabilities weakens.” A drop in credit rating would cost the state millions in interest rates for general obligation bonds, and can be a turnoff for major economic development projects.
The rating company also warned that Mississippi’s economy is “overweight in the more volatile manufacturing sector” and has high poverty, low per capita income and unemployment remains above the national average.

Fitch also said the state has “above average liabilities,” with net tax-supported debt of $5.3 billion, and a state employee pension fund with high unfunded obligations.

The combined debt, unfunded pension obligation and low income makes Mississippi “among the weakest of the states,” the report said.

Reeves said, “The fact our pension funding levels are weak and getting weaker, that’s a real issue … But heretofore, there has not been the political will to do anything about it. I don’t know if that is changing or not.”

Anonymous said...

KF, the ER increase did not come about until 1 July 13, so it would not be included in this report since the previous FY ended June 30.

KaptKangaroo said...

Nothing is guaranteed by the government. It is always in play, always in flux.

Your entitlement without the "austerity measures" similar to health care today is SAFE.

I'm not a politician, but I guarantee you they will tell you, YOU ARE SAFE.


Anonymous said...

Weren't employees hired in the last few years excluded
from the defined benefit plan ?

Anonymous said...

8:19; Not that I'm aware of. Can you provide a citation for that? And 6:50 is correct. Kingfish bases a large part of his 'sky falling' claim on an increase that didn't become effective until AFTER the fiscal year ended. And, as always, The Cap'n sits on the bleacher top row shooting spitballs and chanting "I told ya so; I told ya so!"

As we have all known for at least thirteen years, defined benefit plans across the nation have begun to fail and there are simple reasons for the failure, none of which have a rat's ass to do with employees, retirees or investments. Even Baskin Robbins knows you can't order a gallon of ice cream each day and scoop out a gallon and half worth of cones.

How many remember back when the legislature gave themselves full PERS retirement after only four years state service?

Kingfish said...


Pension funding continues to decline and the state utilizes a funding methodology that employs a fixed contribution and variation of the amortization period for its unfunded accrued liabilities. Despite having raised employer contributions to 15.75% of payroll and employee contributions to 9% of payroll, the funding of the state's Public Employees' Retirement System declined to 57.7% as of June 30, 2013 and its amortization period increased to 32.2 years. The Fitch-adjusted funded ratio is 51.9%

Anonymous said...

Any fool who thinks PERS is failing because of SLRP is just that, a fool.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anybody who thinks that, 9:30; however, anybody who thinks SLRP is not a part of the problem is damned sure a fool. An automobile with a burned up engine and two flats is not going to make it down the highway. The engine needs work but you've still got two flats.

Multiple programs under the state retirement umbrella; highway patrol, municipalities, SLRP and PERS (with double benefits for legislators) all roll into the overall problem. Not just one piece needs to be fixed.

As someone once said, taking a bit of editorial license here, you take the millions eventually, down the road, paid out in retirement perks to part time legislators and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Of course suggesting that SLRP money pissed down a rathole is not really important makes me wonder if you're a Hinds County Supervisor. Piss away a little here and a little there.....

Anonymous said...

Make up your mind, Kingfish. One month you'll extol the incompetence and inexperience and 'daddy funding' of Fitch, then the next, you're quoting her as some sort of clairvoyant.

All she did in that quote was admit that the ponzi situation can't be controlled given the present rules. But, she'll be drawing a 13th check before the legislature acts.

Anonymous said...

KF, obviously you haven't read my previous post nor have you posted it. You can quote Fitch (gotta a kick out of someone believing this was the state treasurer) all day long, but ER contributions did not increase until 1 July 13.
I don't think anyone who is familiar with this system doesn't believe it has some serious problems.
KF, do you read John Mauldin?

Anonymous said...

What we have here is knee-jerk reporting based on half-assed understanding of the problem for the sake of touching the bases. Kingfish rarely drills down deeper than the first strata.

Anonymous said...

November 6, 2013 at 8:39 PM = another anonymous nobody

Anonymous said...

"November 6, 2013 at 8:39 PM = another anonymous nobody". Are you saying that because you don't like the post or just because you wanted to comment, anonymously?

Anonymous said...

Whether contracts can be broken is certainly up for debate and eventually up to the courts. Certainly not up to a bunch of ranting homers on a blog site. The whole thing needs to be retooled with retirees left alone and those in a few years of retirement left alone. It matters not how this program compares to the private sector or who thinks they can better invest the funds. The relationship is based on a contract. If the system is to be salvaged, get to work on it. And include putting the meat axe to SLRP.

Some years back they allowed folks to retire with 25, hoping to get rid of a lot of folks. Now they're trying to figure out how to get those at retirement age to hang around and not retire.

Don't count on Feel Brant to do anything about it. Besides he USED TO HAVE A FOUR OH WUN KAYE!

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