Posts Tagged ‘pension’

Most Generous New Jersey Pension

In one of the sillier broadsides in the propaganda war over the worth of a New Jersey public pension a ‘think’ tank probably funded by unions released a report today claiming that New Jersey’s non-public-safety plans “rank 95th in pension generosity out of 100 top plans nationally” based on criteria they made up:

To rank each pension plan’s overall generosity, we first compare our 100 largest state pension plans on three separate measures of pension generosity:
  • The strength of their automatic inflation protection (assuming 2.5 percent inflation).
  • The amount by which pensions increase with each additional year of public service as a percentage of “final average salary,” an amount commonly referred to as “the multiplier.” (Final average salary is usually calculated as the average salary over the final three or five years of an individual’s public service.)
  • The amount employees contribute to their own pensions. When employees contribute less, we consider their pension more generous.
Overall generosity is determined by giving each pension plan a score out of 100 based on its rank on these three separate dimensions of pension generosity. A pension plan ranked first on one of the dimensions receives 100 points, a pension plan ranked 100threceives one point. Adding up the three ranks generates the plan’s overall generosity score. The 1st-place-ranked and most generous pension plan received an overall score of 225.5. The least generous pension plan by far, with a score of 24.5,covers municipal employees in California’s Contra Costa County. The pension plan ranked 99th, the New Hampshire Retirement System, received an overall generosity score of 74.5, not far below New Jersey’s 85.
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Using their criteria I can easily design a plan that would rank in the top 5 in generosity without costing taxpayers a dime.

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How To Speak Public Pensions

John Lanchester provides a useful service in his new book How to Speak Money – What the Money People Say And What It Really Means introducing his topic by noting:

There’s a huge gap between the people who understand money and economics and the rest of us.  Some of the gap was created deliberately, with the use of secrecy and obfuscation; but more of it, I think, is to do with the fact that it was just easier this way, easier for both sides.  The money people didn’t have to explain what they were up to, and got to write their own rules, and did very well out of the arrangement; and for the rest of us, the brilliant thing was, we never had to think about economics. (page xiv)

The details of modern money are often complicated, but the principles underlying those details aren’t (page xv)

“There was a fear that if it was made understandable, it wouldn’t seem important” Grayson Perry on art world terminology (page 5)

My theory is that the jargon was developed to mask really stupid concepts (usually benefiting the jargon-user in some way) that, were they to be explained honestly, would be laughed out of use.

For example, the California Institute for Local Government (CILG) offers a Guide to Pension Terminology where they seek to define some terms that I believe could have been defined better.

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Detroit Paving Way for Bankruptcy Route to Public Benefit Cuts

A few minutes ago a judge approved Detroit’s bankruptcy plan which included these benefit cuts that Detroit retirees approved back in July:

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Christie Shorting NJ Pension by $3.8 Billion?

The story first appeared in the International Business Times (IBT) with lots of charts under the screaming headline:

Gov. Christie Shifted Pension Cash to Wall Street, Costing New Jersey Taxpayers $3.8 Billion

Today it was picked up by AOL, Esquire, and Daily Kos all using the angle that Christie wants to take money from retirees barely scrimping by so he can give it to his Wall Street friends who then donate to political campaigns of his choosing.  But is that the real story?

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Pension Study Commission Members Announced

I predicted they would be a combination of five patsies and quislings but apparently Governor Christie could not fill out that roster so he settled on some professional people but raised the number to nine so as to assure that his original intention (having this commission rubber-stamp whatever study the Divisions of Pensions is almost done with) will play out though not through blind obeisance as originally intended but through internal bickering which this commission is certain to have plenty of.  The members, per the press release:

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But New Jersey Is a Disaster

There have been those out there who do not see a public pension crisis including Teresa Ghilarducci who took to public TV yesterday to make that exact claim but…..when it came to New Jersey:

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D-Days for New Jersey Pensions

As in Decision Days.

Today a judge will hear arguments on whether the State can skip pension payments (it can for this year anyway) and tomorrow:

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Who Said We Fixed the New Jersey Pension System in 2011?

Today: “no one in their right mind would say that what we did in ’11 totally fixed a problem that is in the 30-40 billion dollar range”
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but they did:
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The 401(k) Transparency (Dis)Advantage for Public Plans

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going to defer most of a $1.6 billion pension payment due next month into the next fiscal year to balance the budget for the current year. The announcement will be made this coming week and, to deflect from this fiscal chicanery, he will call out the legislature to get New Jersey public employees into 401(k) plans. The campaign kicked off this past week at the Peterson economic summit with a criticism of the “insanity of a defined benefit pension system”:
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and continues with an article planted in the Wall Street Journal.

But going to a Defined Contribution (DC) system does not guarantee any savings to taxpayers since DC plans can be structured to be just as expensive as the current DB system.

Though what it would provide is transparency. The cabal currently manipulating costs downward will be out of business and there would be no surprises – for taxpayers having to pay for the underfundings of the past or retirees losing their COLAs.

The other advantage (or disadvantage to some) will be the elimination of those games played to pump up benefits without having them paid for.  For example:

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Page 8

The July 1, 2013 actuarial reports for the New Jersey pension plans are coming out and if you are of a mind to explain to your teacher friends why they will soon be seeing Detroit-type ‘adjustments’ to their pensions just point them to page 8 of the Milliman report for the Teachers Plan – TPAF – (Buck does the valuations for the other 6 plans in the system) titled ‘Risk Measures.’  Search the Buck reports and you won’t even find the word ‘risk’ mentioned but Milliman beginning with their July 1, 2009 report thought it a good idea to mention that…..

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