Report: In a year marked by economic hardship, public-pension funding is up
In a year filled with gloomy news of economic hardships and the ongoing pandemic, there’s a bright spot: the funded ratio of the 100 largest U.S. public pensions is up by more than 15 percent this year, according to Milliman’s annual analysis.
“Surging market returns have propelled pension assets far beyond previous levels, driving the estimated funding deficit below $1 trillion for the first time since 2012,” the report says. “We estimate that nearly half of the plans in the study stood above 90 percent funded as of June 30.”
Only 13 public pension plans were above 90 percent funded based on Milliman’s 2020 analysis.
The study, which was released this month, analyzed data from each plan’s most recent fiscal year-end report, according to the report. Specifically, Milliman’s analysis estimates that “aggregate plan assets rose significantly from $3.90 trillion as of the most recent measurement dates to $4.82 trillion.” The 100 plans “reported benefit payouts totaling $298 billion in their most recent measurement years. Reported contributions totaled $209 billion, with $157 billion and $52 billion provided by employers and members, respectively.”
“The stellar funding improvement in the first half of 2021 is likely welcome news to plan sponsors, given the volatility of the previous 12 months,” said Becky Sielman, author of the report, in a statement. “But with the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and systems’ volatility dampening mechanisms in place, we’re not likely to see budgetary relief from this improvement, at least in the short-term.”
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