Pension Matters

State Employees Retirement Fund
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April 2017

Pension Investment

I attended the March Investment Advisory Committee Meeting. Both Jon Braeutigam and Greg Parker provided an update to the Board. Both gentlemen emphasized that the fund is doing well even with a payout (for pensions) of about 3 percent of the fund. It was highlighted that the Federal Reserve Board voted to raise its interest rate for a second time in the past two years.

The majority of the meeting was given to the presenter, Greg Valliere, chief global strategist of Horizon Investments who is considered “ a guru on the nexus of politics and economics.” His focus today was on investment concerns and opportunities under the Trump administration. You can go to this web site www.horizoninvestments.com to read his Special Edition: How This Election Affects Global Markets for some of his insights. He had some very interesting and compelling insights.

NOTE: Private equity firms had a record $2.49 trillion in assets as ofDec. 31, and 319 new firms launched in 2016, according to a new report by Boston Consulting Group, “Capitalizing on the New Golden Age in Private Equity”.

“How Has the Shift to 401(k) Plans Affected Retirement Income?”

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College issued a briefing that addresses how the transition from defined benefit to defined contribution plans affected retirement wealth and income during 1992-2010.

The brief’s key findings are:

  • total retirement wealth from employer plans was roughly flat, and this wealth is now more skewed toward those with more education;
  • the income produced by each dollar of retirement wealth has declined, despite a tendency for workers to retire later; and
  • the amount of income relative to a worker’s earnings has declined.

The bottom line is that employer plans are providing less retirement income today than in the past. See the entire report at http://crr.bc.edu

Snyder Creates Task Force on Retiree Obligations

"Gov. Rick Snyder has charged a task force of accountants, elected officials and labor leaders with finding ways to help local governments meet their obligations to retirees. And they are large obligations: a ranking state official says retiree health care and pension liabilities for local government across Michigan total roughly $14 billion. Of that, liabilities of $11 billion are unfunded.” Read more at www.detroitnews.com

OMG

About one in three adults has $0 saved for retirement, according to a report from GOBankingRates”. 2017 Retirement Savings survey. Another 21 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved. That means more than half of Americans don”. t have enough set aside to cover expenses for even one year in retirement. Read more at www.gobankingrates.com

Shoring Up Pensions

Gov. Snyder and Mayor Duggan of Detroit are proposing to create a Retiree Protection Fund, or RPF, as a “proactive step designed to avoid the kind of pension tragedy when Detroit pensioners lost part of their pensions during the city’s historic Chapter 9 bankruptcy.”

“Creation of the RPF follows Detroit’s improved financial position,” Moody’s Credit Outlook wrote recently, calling the city’s move “credit positive” . Detroit reports being on track to record its second general fund operating surplus of at least $40 million in 2017. Read more at www.detroitnews.com

Can”. t Seem to Get it Right

First there were massive errors in the Unemployment Insurance program. Now it”. s incorrect salary information and audit errors.

According to an articles in the LSJ, Salaries for about 4,500 state workers were incorrect in the salary database posted online due to a “technical error” which caused the state to give out “erroneous information”. Read more at www.lansingstatejournal.com

Then again, the LSJ reports that the state owes about $145 million more toward retiree health care than previously reported based on audit findings. Auditors said officials, “did not have a process in place to assure completeness of their records".

What is with our IT department?

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for 2016 is available on line

Highlights:

  • assets exceeded liabilities at the close of FY 2016 by $12.6 billion
  • additions for the year were $2.4 billion, which are comprised primarily of contributions of $1.5 billion and investment gains of $.9 billion
  • Deductions increased over the prior year by 1.5%

You can find the CAFR on line at the Office of Retirement Services (ORS) website.

Good News on Pension Fund

The Rockefeller Institute of Government released its latest report examining investment return volatility and its impact on the Michigan State Employees”. Retirement System (MISERS).

The report found that:

  • MISERS has relatively little risk of becoming severely underfunded in the next 30 years if the plan”. s investment-return assumption of 8 percent is approximately correct over the long run and it strictly follows its current funding policy that amortizes unfunded liability over an increasingly shortened time period.
  • Under plausible alternative investment-return assumptions, such as a long period of low expected returns or high volatility in investment returns, MISERS would face much greater risk of severe underfunding and the state of Michigan would face a much greater risk of sharp increases in required contributions.
  • If the governor of Michigan”. s current recommendation to lower MISERS”. assumed rate of return from 8 percent to 7.5 percent is implemented, the required employer contribution will increase by about 10 percent in the short run. Lowering the return assumption would reduce the risk of severe underfunding and the risk of large increases in contributions, but the positive effect is likely to be relatively small, if the investment assumption of 7.5 percent is approximately correct.
  • MISERS, as a closed plan, is shrinking in size over time and will eventually stop being a potential source of fiscal stress for the state of Michigan. However, that is far in the future: MISERS will remain a relatively large plan for the next 30 years, and could still create significant fiscal stress for the state government when future fiscal crises hit, particularly under the current funding policy, which requires quick repayments of investment shortfalls.
To read the report, go towww.rockinst.org.
Just a Little Humor :)

I love being over 60 I learn something new every day and forget 5 others

Editor’s note: June Morse may be contacted at jmorse10@comcast.net or 517-886-9323.

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