The recent situation with Carillion should force many to consider the larger issue of corporate, or public, pension solvency. The underfunding of pensions is serious in many cases, and the “guarantee” of funds availability in retirement is not 100%. Whether we want to talk about social security, the North Dakota state teachers’ pension fund, the situation below with Carillion or a different company several of the issues remain the same.
Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions – Bloomberg
This is a really important article for businesses, but especially those in North Dakota. With a long reputation of "greying faster than the country as a whole" it raises the question of whether businesses in the state, or the state, would reap similar (potential) benefits. The simple fact is that we continue to see errors made in terms of benefit contributions and shortfalls in pensions, even in North Dakota. We can do the math better and we should.
JT and I talked many times about pensions and the unfortunate arithmetic behind most defined-benefit pensions. We keep seeing issues arise with the pensions in places like Detroit, or now Illinois. To reiterate, I have no issue with the defined-benefit pension plan in theory. The issues I have focus on the management, or should I say mismanagement, of the pension plan. The mismanagement really falls into two categories: investment of pension fund assets bordering on fraud and, a seemingly willful ignorance about the changes in life spans for people (in this case plan recipients).
This is something of a followup to the discussions from the radio last week. I did some looking at the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” from the North Dakota Retirement and Investment Office to see what I could find related to the position of the pensions in North Dakota. For those not aware, pensions are a huge issue across the country these days. They came under fire in the case of Detroit; unfairly blamed in my opinion for the eventual bankruptcy of the city. Recently the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution prevented a renegotiation of the retirement benefits. We will see how that proceeds as Illinois is in a dire fiscal situation.
With the semester drawing to a close and the summer session getting ready to start soon my thoughts turned towards population issues. (I teach a population analysis class in the summer for the graduate students.) One of topic coming up in that class on a regular basis is pensions, particularly the math behind pensions. I thought a little post about the issues surrounding defined benefit pensions in order. JT also asked about alternative uses of the $3 billion available in the legacy fund when it becomes available in the future. So let’s start with this issue.