Cost of a New Jersey Public Pension (2)

This week’s New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations hearing had senators looking to jew down the already ridiculously low payment into the New Jersey Retirement System for FY21 and in the process revealing their ignorance of how those payments are established.
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If these politicians are looking to lower contributions all they need do is find an actuary who will provide them the number they would be comfortable with. They did that with Cheiron last year but apparently it was not enough.

Then there is this excerpt from the second youtube above:
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Using that logic (which backfired in 1997) the state could go out and borrow $150 billion at 2% interest, deposit it into the pension and both fully fund the plan and obviate the need for future contributions with the 7.3% interest to be earned. Why not even borrow $1 trillion and use the earnings to get rid of the income tax?

What the experts don’t let you in on (and the politicians don’t want to figure out) is that the 7.3% interest assumption is aspirational and only being used to keep contributions low. As explained here a plan as badly funded as New Jersey’s should be using a much lower interest assumption to make up for earnings that never accrue on contributions not made.

60 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tough Love on September 13, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    Quoting ……….

    “What the experts don’t let you in on (and the politicians don’t want to figure out) is that the 7.3% interest assumption is aspirational and only being used to keep contributions low. As explained here a plan as badly funded as New Jersey’s should be using a much lower interest assumption to make up for earnings that never accrue on contributions not made.”

    No matter how many times this point is mentioned, AND demonstrated (as you have done on this Blog), I can’t think of a single time that a nationally recognized journalist has emphasized it’s importance in pointing out just how (especially in a LOW interest environment such as today) blatantly absurd a 7.3% investment return assumption (and HENCE, PER PUBLIC SECTOR METHODOLOGY a 7.3% interest rate assumption for discounting Plan liabilities) really is.

    So (lol) just in case a nationally recognized journalist is reading this, here’s the short version for you to pass along……….

    Suppose your pension Plan has a 40% funded ratio based on $4 Million of assets and $10 Million in liabilities (determined by discounting each expected future payout back in time to the valuation date, using a 7.3% compound annual interest rate). The $4 Million are actual assets you have in hand TODAY, but the $10 Million is just an estimate.

    The critical point is that for the $10 Million estimated liability to indeed grow to the amount required to make all of the future expected payments from which it was determined, the Plan must earn 7.3% on the $10 Million, NOT just 7.3% on the $4 Million is actual assets in hand that can be invested.

    Note that $7.3% of $10 million is $730,000 ……. our target earnings.

    Looking at at in a way that SHOULD BE an eye-opener, the Plan must earn 7.3% x ($10Million / $4 Million) = 18.25% on the ACTUAL $4 Million of assets to earn that targeted $730,000 (because $4 Million x 18.25% = $730,000).

    While earning 7.3% on invested assets is a BIG stretch in today’s investment environment, assuming we will earn 18.25% is beyond absurd.

    Reply

  2. Posted by NJ2AZ on September 13, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    ignoring that the rate of return is trash for a minute, its still hard to earn 7% on money that you’ll have completely spent on benefits in what..like 5 years?

    Reply

  3. If NJ pension fund had the $200+ billion it should have at the top of the market, how many state politicians would try to get a piece of that?

    Same goes for any underfunded state.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 2:15 am

      If NJ’s PUBLIC Sector pensions weren’t ludicrously excessive, but instead were no more generous than the 401K contributions that is all the vast majority of Private Sector workers get from their employers, the assets CURRENTLY HELD held by NJ’s Public Sector pension plans would very likely mean that they were FULLY funded.

      Bottom line …………. don’t over-promise and you need as GREAT DEAL less in assets.

      Reply

    • Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

      Reply

    • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 16, 2020 at 8:27 pm

      If NJ pension fund had the $200+ billion it should have at the top of the market, how many state politicians would try to get a piece of that?
      Yet more stoopidity of epic proportions … Baby Einstein, AKA Dougie, AKA Anonymous, AKA Earth, AKA A, AKA Stephen, AKA [did I miss any??] are you aware of the protections given ALL pension funds, private pension funds through ERISA and Public Pensions through the contracts clause and a vast web of complex state laws and regulations>>>>>>?? Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question.

      NO ONE can “get a piece” of a pension fund except beneficiaries.

      Reply

  4. Posted by bpaterson on September 14, 2020 at 2:16 am

    wasn’t this the concept behind Whitman’s thinking?

    Reply

  5. And Pete Wilson in the 70s and Arnold Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008-2009. At least Schwarzenegger wanted to repay at generous rates. Pete just took it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 16, 2020 at 8:40 pm

      Pete just took it.
      SMH … Stupidity at epic levels …. Go back and re-visit your revisionist history.

      Reply

  6. Posted by geo8rge on September 14, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Ghost of Christmas future: Illinois’ budget depends on ‘bailout’ and progressive income tax amendment

    Earlier this year, shortly after the state and the nation were rocked by the pandemic, Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, sent members of Congress a letter requesting more than $41 billion in aid to cover the state’s anticipated financial problems.( Ill population is 30% more than NJ but they are looking for twice the bailout of NJ)

    https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois/illinois-budget-depends-on-bailout-and-progressive-income-tax-amendment/article_92aa4292-f20a-11ea-a473-f7e1e1abeda3.html

    Reply

    • Those people are so far gone Hubble couldn’t find them. Comes a point where stupid turns into crackhead.

      Reply

      • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 15, 2020 at 11:08 pm

        Posted by MJF on September 14, 2020 at 11:22 am

        Those people are so far gone Hubble couldn’t find them. Comes a point where stupid turns into crackhead.
        ==
        Damn that was good MJF 🙂

        Reply

  7. TL, instead of limiting your easy to understand example to the few people on this blog, why don’t you consider having it published as an opinion piece in every NJ newspaper, NJ Patch publication, local county newspapers, community newspapers, online sites, etc

    Maybe if more people were made aware in the simplest terms, it would give them pause to vote R next time around. If nothing else, you would be doing your civic duty in educating the masses

    Reply

    • https://mobile.twitter.com/BillFOXLA/status/1305331051112181760/photo/1

      Democrats suck on this issue. This cop was shot through the jaw, radioed for help and put a tourniquet on her partner.
      Disgusting vermin protesters out there.
      Lancaster shoot was clean too. Enough with these bleeding heart liberals.
      Took three months before they let Biden even comment.

      Reply

      • Posted by NJ2AZ on September 14, 2020 at 3:08 pm

        whether or not one gets worked up over that Lancaster shoot is a good litmus test for whether or not someone has any objectivity left.

        i believe there are some obvious opportunities for police reform, but i can still say that shoot was as good as they get.

        Reply

        • And yet the animals throw bricks and attack the police. Fuck them. So sick of this narrative. All started with not beating the living FUCK out of the animals throwing water buckets on the cops last year. Did you see the rioter get thrown off the police car he climbed onto when the cop hit the gas?
          Enough. Get a fucking job. Losers. Trump 2020.

          Reply

          • Posted by NJ2AZ on September 14, 2020 at 9:37 pm

            preaching to the choir, E. I respect the legitimate protests, but the looters and rioters and other common criminals should be shot on sight.

      • Posted by NJ2AZ on September 14, 2020 at 3:13 pm

        i assume Uncle Joe and/or Kamala immediately denounced this violence?

        Reply

        • No. Almost a full day after the cops got ambushed in LA. Trump posted very quickly.
          “Animals….we need to hit them hard.” I’ll take him over Joe any day and twice on Sunday.

          Reply

  8. Quoting Tough Love:
    “So (lol) just in case a nationally recognized journalist is reading this, here’s the short version for you to pass along……….”

    Chris Wallace has a good following nationally, he could interview Jane the Actuary, who seems to simplify the concepts well.

    On Wisconsin, the current poster boy for responsible state pension funds.

    Jane: “Some of the characteristics of these plans are straightforward.”

    1. For instance, they are more likely to have a small COLA, … rather than Illinois’ guaranteed 3% compounded COLA.

    2. They also consistently make the Actuarially Determined Contribution, year after year — which means, of course, that there is no need for more burdensome catch-up contributions later on.

    3. each year’s employee contribution (not just employer contribution) varies based on the requirements due to the funded status/funding method,

    4. retirees’ benefits are adjusted up or down based on investment returns.

    Reply

  9. I’ll give it away at the beginning: they’re in trouble because they’re not making the “required” contributions to the pensions.

    Yes, there are all sorts of other reasons as well, such as spiking, early retirements, sluggish payroll growth, optimistic valuation assumptions, etc.

    But ultimately the reason the pensions are so little funded is because the state didn’t put in enough funds.

    And they knew it.

    They knew it for years.

    It’s not because of investment fees, though those should be more transparent. It’s not because of part-time board directors who get a lifetime pension for very little work, though that doesn’t help. (I’ll address why these aren’t significant problems in a later post.)

    DON’T PAY THE BILLS, THE DEBT GETS LARGER
    ——————————————————————————–
    Vs.

    The ROOT CAUSE of the problem has ALWAYS been the ludicrously excessive generosity. The lack of “full funding” isn’t the CAUSE of this mess. It’s a CONSEQUENCE of the real ROOT CAUSE ……….. ludicrously excessive pensions.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Stephen Douglas,

      The readers can decide for themselves. I look at you (as a retired CA Public Sector workers now collecting one of these pensions) as very biased, with a huge sense of entitlement, and a “to-hell-with-the-Taxpayers” attitude.

      Reply

    • Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2020 at 3:03 pm

      Yup.

      And what do the readers say to Mary Pat and Jane?

      Reply

    • To Tough Love @ 2:18 pm

      I look at you as very biased also. And very mistaken.

      (Also rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, but that’s beside the point.)

      I realize; you’ve told me often enough, that you feel justified in your anger, or hysteria, (agita?), but it only hinders your credibility. That’s just me trying to be constructive.

      It is what it is.

      You might consider a plan B, which includes actual governance reforms honoring the legal pensions in place, but at a lower cost to the taxpayers. That might actually include pension reductions*, in addition to those already enacted. Andrew Biggs can live with that (see burypensions, Sept. 8, 2020), if it includes stricter, more conservative regulations.

      The readers can decide for themselves.

      *Might also include, for some, wage increases. TANSTAAFL

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 4:51 pm

        From the getgo, Public Sector DB Pension Plans should have been valued under the Regs set by ERISA for Private Sector Plans …. currently about 3% interest rates for discounting Plan benefits instead of 7.3% (in NJ).

        Why?

        Because if had had been (FROM THE GETGO), the promised pension benefits would likely have been no more than HALF the current formulas, and anyone who begins collecting a pension before age 62 would likely have been subject to a PROPER actuarial reduction in benefit payout of about 5% for EACH YEAR OF AGE before age 62.

        Reply

      • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 16, 2020 at 8:42 pm

        To Tough Love @ 2:18 pm

        I look at you as very biased also. And very mistaken.

        (Also rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, but that’s beside the point.)
        Oh shit, I think this means Dougie loves Rex ….

        Reply

    • Posted by Rex the Wonder Dog! 🐶🐶🐶🦴🦴🦴 on September 15, 2020 at 11:12 pm

      But ultimately the reason the pensions are so little funded is because the state didn’t put in enough funds.

      And they knew it.

      They knew it for years.
      Dougie- you stupid F’ing ass clown. Your brain is nothing but AIR. The fucking pensions did not have enough $$ contributed because your fucking felonious co-conspirator con men at CalTURDS said $100K/year @age 50 “pensions” would not “cost a dime” and jacked them by 50% retroactively without PAYING for them….. STFU you ignorant ass clown monkey boy 🐕 🐕 🐕

      Reply

  10. Seriously, if you want advice on pensions, who ya gonna call?

    Quoting Tough Love:
    “What the experts don’t let you in on (and the politicians don’t want to figure out) is that the 7.3% interest assumption is aspirational and only being used to keep contributions low.”

    I am shooting from the hip, here, because I don’t have time* to verify it, but I believe New York State uses a 7 point something discount rate to value its pensions. The difference being that, instead of contributing 100 percent of the ARC, based on that rate, they, by law, contribute enough to bring the fund to 100 percent, as calculated by that discount rate. Sound like a subtle difference? Read Mary Pat Campbell’s articles on how many (most?) states contribute 100% of ARC, and still fall further and further behind every year.

    Then buy her a pot of tea. One for Jane also. One for John Bury if you can figure out how to do it.

    Jane: ” They also consistently make the Actuarially Determined Contribution, year after year — which means, of course, that there is no need for more burdensome catch-up contributions later on.”

    Meep: “DON’T PAY THE BILLS, THE DEBT GETS LARGER”

    El Guapo: “F**k you. Pay me.”

    *or inclination. So sue me.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      Dope, you were quoting me …………. who was quoting Mr. Bury.

      Reply

    • And now you are quoting me, how ironic.

      The point is, whether you use 7 percent or 3 percent, if your commitment (or legal requirement, as in NYS) is to fully fund at that rate –every year– instead of just “one hundred percent of ARC”, you will never need those “burdensome catch-up contributions later on.”

      True, if there were a major depression, or you wanted or needed to terminate your pension plan immediately, the fully funded plan at 7 percent would not have sufficient funds for that. But if NYS is fully funded at 7 percent, and California is 70 percent funded at 7 percent, NYS is in much better shape. And in that scenario, we are all pretty much screwed anyway.

      You will be, as NYS now is, able to fund an equivalent pension at much lower current costs.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 7:32 pm

        Jerk …………. you couldn’t even just admit that you mistakenly assigned that quote to me.

        Jerk.

        Reply

        • Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2020 at 7:46 pm

          Ladies and gentlemen…..this country has FAR more serious problems than my pension. The liberals have destroyed this country.

          Reply

        • Ladies and gentlemen…..this country has FAR more serious problems than my pension. The liberals have destroyed this country.

          Reply

          • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 7:57 pm

            Ok, let’s shift to the FREE retiree healthcare costing you ….. not a penny …. but costing Nj’s Taxpayers $35+K/yr for 10 to 15 years (before hitting 65) once you retire. Not sure what we’re paying after 65, but I’m quite certain it’s still WAY more than what Taxpayers get for themselves.

            Ridiculous, let’s vote

            [] Yes

            [] No

          • Sorry TL. I am not in a mood lately to debate pension or benifits. We both know each other’s position well on the topic. Another cop ambushed and killed in AZ today. And you wonder why I have an AR-15 and am heavily armed.
            We need judges like the one in Lancaster. $1M bail for the rioters. Fuck them. Let them rot.

          • Posted by Tough Love on September 15, 2020 at 11:58 pm

            Glad the judge did that …. sends a clear message.

            But, another judge will likely lower it significantly. Bail is supposed to insure that you appear for trial, not be a punishment.

        • I “admit” it.

          Mea culpa

          Not that it is relevant who said it. The point was, still is, that ” there is no need for more burdensome catch-up contributions later on.”

          From most recent memory, New Jersey and Wisconsin have roughly similar pension generosity. New Jersey’s ARC is over 50 percent. Wisconsin is 7 percent, and has been for two decades or more

          Reply

          • Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 9:34 pm

            Quoting …………..

            “The point was, still is, that ” there is no need for more burdensome catch-up contributions later on.””

            You’re correct, there WOULDN’T be …. with the SAME contributions amounts ……. if the promised Public Sector pensions weren’t “ludicrously” excessive.

            DON’T OVER-PROMISE AND THE BILLS ARE A GREAT DEAL SMALLER.

          • “Burdensome” rates is over 30% of salary for underfunded plans as opposed to 7% for those that maintain full funding.

            https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/post-launch-images/2019/07/statepensionv2/fig3_650px.png?mw=1820&hash=140F27A318BB50E181B33C1928AC8A26

          • Posted by Tough Love on September 16, 2020 at 12:08 am

            You’re so fully of it …… as are states that MAKE-BELIEVE such low contribution rates can fully fund their pensions.

            If valued using assumptions and methodology required by the US Gov’t in the valuation of Private Sector DB Plans, and with the requirement to fully fund them over the working career of the employees, the level annual total EE+ER NORMAL COST of NJ’s non-safety worker pensions for those who stay for a fully career are about 30% of pay, rising to close to 50% for Safety workers with richer formulas and earlier retirement ages.

            And with Private Sector workers rarely getting more than 4%-of-pay into a 401K Plan. Its OUTRAGEOUS how thoroughly the Taxpayers are ripped off by the ludicrously excessive Public Sector pensions & benefits.

          • Except when they can make believe for twenty straight years.

            “Anyway, yes, Wisconsin employer contribution rates are quite moderate.

            Good for them.”

            https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://stump.marypat.org/article/1013/wisconsin-wednesday-is-contribution-growth-moderate&ved=2ahUKEwioy73w_e3rAhVGb60KHbBlCkIQFjABegQIChAC&usg=AOvVaw3aXhR0y3tRQ1TGk3Y7EGqW

          • Posted by Tough Love on September 16, 2020 at 4:04 pm

            There is a “cost” for the lower contributions …………Smaller benefits, lower benefit growth (than other DB Plans), higer ER contributions, and “risk sharing” so that the Taxpayers aren’t the ONLY ones punished when things go bad.

          • Of course there’s a cost. Biggs did two studies there, before and after act 10. Before, wages were roughly equal, and total compensation was, as I recall, 29% over the private sector. (On average, of course, average values can f**k you up.) After act 10, in the nationwide 2014 study, Wisconsin wages were 10% below and total compensation was 11% above the private sector. Sometimes big data changes quickly.

            Look at the 2001-2016 contribution growth rates. Wisconsin 5.7%… New Jersey 65.6%. There can really be only one reason for that. Those annoying (and very expensive) burdensome catch-up contributions.

            Mary Pat Campbell: “Before we begin, I will admit: I do not understand the Wisconsin State Pensions.”. (She did three or four articles. Google “Wisconsin Wednesday”.)

            Nobody does. Safe bet more than half of Wisconsin retirees don’t either. Or Andrew Biggs. It’s complicated.
            1. Wisconsin pensions are about the nationwide average.
            2. Employees shared contributions 50/50, except before act ten, the state could pick up the employee share.
            3. Employees contribute 50% of normal costs, but can choose to divert part of that into a DC account.
            4. Pension payments can be reduced (risk sharing) but it has been very rare. And they can be increased when ROI warrants it.
            5. Then that POB (apparently successful) in 2003. How does that affect the fund?)

            There are likely similar oddities in the New Jersey fund of which you are not aware or misunderstand.

            If it was easy, any fool could do it. Reduce all accruals by 50% or more is easy.

  11. Let’s just compare Wisconsin against all the other plans I can get 2001-2016 contribution growth rates for.

    http://stump.marypat.org/images/1182.png?1528851054

    Uh… many of those plans are in horrible condition. You may not believe Wisconsin’s “perpetual 100% funded ratio”, but when a public plan says it’s less than 40% funded, you should probably believe them.

    http://stump.marypat.org/images/1184.png?1528851173

    Reply

  12. Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    Anybody believe this guy ?

    https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/09/14/south-dakota-agency-ag-reported-hitting-deer-but-hit-man/24620126/

    I see 2 criminal charges in his future (beside the HUGE Civil lawsuit sure to come), leaving the scene of an accident and death by auto.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Tough Love on September 14, 2020 at 11:33 pm

    Only in the PUBLIC Sector does NONSENSE like this happen. No CORPORATION would put up with such crap. He has another job. STOP paying him.

    https://www.tapinto.net/towns/nutley/articles/nj-principal-on-leave-for-two-years-and-employed-by-lincoln-university-continues-to-receive-full-pay

    Reply

  14. TL, the article doesn’t indicate if the lawsuits were settled. It may be the district must continue to pay him until the law suits for each side are determined. In the meantime, he may not be constricted under his contact in pursuing other employment. assuming Lincoln Univ was aware of the nature of the lawsuits, I would be of the opinion that it was bad judgement on their par to hire him.

    I’m sure nonsense like this does go on in corporations and private businesses but maybe we just don’t hear about as much unless there are huge sums of money involved or in the new woke corporate environment if it is an accusation of racial discrimination

    Reply

  15. On another note, anybody read about the SFPD making an announcement that they will now have posters in their police stations in solidarity with BLM? “reaffirming their values as a police department” Forget which publication it was in……read it while half asleep so maybe I missed something?

    Does this mean that the police will now be reaffirming those who shot, killed, and spit on their brothers and sisters in blue? Are their values vandalizing, burning looting, rioting, destroying the cities where they work? Breaking the law? They are going to glorify the same organization who is calling for their death and defunding?

    We’re all in big trouble now if this is true

    Reply

  16. It is true the public and private sectors are very different. Like MJ stated, a lot of peculiar personnel practices may be due to legal constraints. Some may be less justifiable than others. Most are public information subject to FOIA rules. No doubt there are equally egregious examples in the private sector that get buried (bad publicity.)

    “San Francisco (public sector) Janitor Made More Than $270,000”

    Yeah, that sucks, but it’s news because it’s an outlier, man bites dog. What isn’t news is the Parks maintenance worker in Fresno who made just over $39,000 last year.

    And, with pension, family health care, and retiree healthcare, might have added another $25-30,000. That is routine. It is virtually unknown, and it plays havoc with “averages” and other statistics.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tough Love on September 15, 2020 at 6:16 pm

      Quoting ……..

      “What isn’t news is the Parks maintenance worker in Fresno who made just over $39,000 last year. ”

      Should be. That wage ALONE is likely more than what a comparable Private Sector workers makes and assuredly, that PUBLIC Sector worker has a pension & benefit package worth $25K-$35K while the Private Sector worker …. if he’s lucky gets one worth $10K.

      No, Public Sector workers do NOT deserve more ……… at any income level.

      Reply

  17. Posted by Tough Love on September 15, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Quoting …………

    “It is true the public and private sectors are very different.”

    lol, SURE is.

    Everyone who benefits, the workers, the Unions, the Elected Officials get to over-promise and pay with OTHER PEOPLE’S money (the Taxpayers), with few if any consequences.

    A moocher’s paradise.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Anonymous on September 15, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    Well, said.

    Reply

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