The California Public Employee Retirement System, known as CalPERS, is in crisis. And it sure looks like things are going to get a whole lot worse before they can get a whole lot better.
The system already has a $153 billion unfunded liability, one of the largest shortfalls of any state, and it only has funds to cover 68 percent of promised benefits into the future. And because CalPERS is already cash negative, paying out $5 billion more in benefits to retirees each year than it takes in, there aren’t many scenarios whereby the system would be able to make good on those promises absent outside intervention (read: taxpayer bailout).
Lawmakers and the fund’s board should be considering reforms to improve the system, but California voters and taxpayers faced another setback recently. Overseers of the pension plan—the nation’s largest—passed a funding plan earlier this year that projects shortfalls over the next decade but assumes rosy investment returns in coming decades to make up the difference. Given the high market valuations today, that assumption seems dubious.
When the CalPERS investment committee reallocated its investments recently, it assumed a 7 percent annualized rate of return. While CalPERS has enjoyed some good years—for example, its 2017 return may exceed 11 percent—that’s not the norm. The fund has averaged a 4.6 percent rate over the past decade, and its 2016 rate was an abysmal 0.6 percent.
Read the full piece at RealClearPolitics.com: