U.S. plans in worse shape than we thought…

New research shows public plans face much deeper deficits.

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road sign carMilliman, Inc., a global consulting and actuarial firm based in Seattle, has released the results of its first Public Pension Funding Study. The study, which offers an aggregate analysis of 100 of the largest public DB pension plans in the U.S., found that these plans’ collective funding deficit is approximately $300 billion more than their self-reported deficit.

According to the study, these plans reported assets of $2.705 trillion and accrued liabilities of $3.6 trillion over the past year, resulting in a funded status deficit of $895 billion and a funded ratio of 75.1%. The Milliman analysis—which uses an actuarial value approach to liabilities—indicates the aggregate liabilities are $3.706 trillion, which results in an aggregate deficit of $1.193 trillion and a funded ratio of 67.8%. The 100 plans in the study encompass the pensions of 23.7 million plan members.

“Our approach was to start with a clean slate and recalculate each plan’s liability with an eye toward an independent result,” commented study author Becky Sielman. “What did we find? The funding deficit for these plans is in excess of a trillion dollars, which quantifies the challenge facing these pensions as they work to satisfy retirement promises. While the deficit number is considerable, these plans have largely been realistic about their funding challenges. Many of these plans are already working diligently to improve their funded status and dig out from under the deficit that piled up during the economic collapse of 2008 and the subsequent reduction in interest rates.”

The full study report considers other aspects of the 100 pensions examined, including their investment allocations, expected returns, and pension liability per member.

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