Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hidden Pension Fiasco May Foment Another $1 Trillion Bailout

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post "Could 20 % of the S&P 500 Go Bankrupt?" which looked at the possible implications of the underfunding of S&P 500 component companies defined benefit plans. This article widens the scope to look at the government (public) pension plans.
From Bloomberg:

...Public pension funds across the U.S. are hiding the size of a crisis that’s been looming for years. Retirement plans play accounting games with numbers, giving the illusion that the funds are healthy.

The paper alchemy gives governors and legislators the easy choice to contribute too little or nothing to the funds, year after year.

30 Percent Shortfall

The misleading numbers posted by retirement fund administrators help mask this reality: Public pensions in the U.S. had total liabilities of $2.9 trillion as of Dec. 16, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Their total assets are about 30 percent less than that, at $2 trillion.

With stock market losses this year, public pensions in the U.S. are now underfunded by more than $1 trillion.

That lack of funds explains why dozens of retirement plans in the U.S. have issued more than $50 billion in pension obligation bonds during the past 25 years -- more than half of them since 1997 -- public records show.

The quick fix for pension funds becomes a future albatross for taxpayer....MUCH MORE