by Bill McBride on 10/10/2009 10:35:00 PM
Saturday, October 10, 2009
From David Cho at the WaPo: Steep Losses Pose Crisis for Pensions
The financial crisis has blown a hole in the rosy forecasts of pension funds that cover teachers, police officers and other government employees, casting into doubt as never before whether these public systems will be able to keep their promises to future generations of retirees.Infinity!
Within 15 years, public systems on average will have less half the money they need to pay pension benefits, according to an analysis by Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Other analysts say funding levels could hit that low within a decade.
After losing about $1 trillion in the markets, state and local governments are facing a devil's choice: Either slash retirement benefits or pursue high-return investments that come with high risk.
Some pension experts say the funding gap has become so great that no investment strategy can close it and that taxpayers will have to cover the massive bill.
The problem isn't limited to public pension funds; many corporate pension funds have lost so much ground that they are also pursuing riskier investments. And they, too, could end up a taxpayer burden if they cannot meet their obligations and are taken over by the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.
In Ohio, for instance, the teachers pension system reported that it would take 41 years for its investments to catch up with the costs of meeting its obligations to retirees. That was before the worst of the financial crisis.
During the last fiscal year, Ohio's fund lost 31 percent. Its most recent annual report detailed how long it would now take for its investments to put the fund back on track. Officials simply said: "Infinity."
Also check out the Time magazine cover story: Why It's Time to Retire the 401(k).
... at the end of 2007, the average 401(k) of a near retiree [55-to-64-year-old] held just $78,000 — and that was before the market meltdown.
Posted by Bill McBride on 10/10/2009 10:35:00 PM