Saturday, February 2, 2019

Pensionomics 2018: Measuring the Economic Impact of Defined Benefit Pensions by the National Institute on Retirement Security

Economic gains attributable to defined benefit (DB) pensions in the U.S. are substantial. Retiree spending of pension benefits in 2016 generated $1.2 trillion in total economic output, supporting some 7.5 million jobs across the U.S. Pension spending also added a total of $202.6 billion to government coffers, as taxes were paid at federal, state and local levels on retirees’ pension benefits and their spending in 2016.
Pensionomics 2018: Measuring the Economic Impact of Defined Benefit Pension Expenditures reports the national economic impacts of public and private pension plans, as well as the impact of state and local plans on a state-by-state basis.
This study finds that in 2016:
$578.0 billion in pension benefits were paid to 26.9 million retired Americans, including:
·         $294.7 billion paid to some 10.7 million retired employees of state and local government and their beneficiaries (typically surviving spouses);
·         $83.0 billion paid to some 2.7 million federal government beneficiaries; and
·         $200.3 billion paid to some 13.5 million private sector beneficiaries.
Expenditures made out of those payments collectively supported:
·         7.5 million American jobs that paid nearly $386.7 billion in labor income;
·         $1.2 trillion in total economic output nationwide;
·         $685.0 billion in value added (GDP); and
·         $202.6 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.
DB pension expenditures have large multiplier effects:
·         Each dollar paid out in pension benefits supported $2.13 in total economic output nationally.
·         Each taxpayer dollar contributed to state and local pensions supported $8.48 in total output nationally. This represents the leverage afforded by robust long-term investment returns and shared funding responsibility by employers and employees.
The largest employment impacts occurred in the real estate, food services, health care, and retail trade sectors.
The purpose of this study is to quantify the economic impact of pension payments in the U.S. and in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Using the IMPLAN model, the analysis estimates the employment, output, value added, and tax impacts of pension benefit expenditures at the national and state levels. Because of methodological refinements explained in the Technical Appendix, the state level results are not directly comparable to those in previous versions of this study.

For the full report, Click Here.


What is the difference between a Defined-Benefit Pension Plan and a Defined-Contribution Savings Plan? (Posted on this blog Sept. 30, 2011; June 10, 2013; Jan. 4, 2015; March 17, 2017; March 7, 2018):  

A Defined-Benefit Pension Plan:

1)  You cannot outlive your benefit;
2) Your defined-benefit pension plan is more cost efficient than the defined-contribution savings plan;
3)  Your defined-benefit pension plan offers predictable, guaranteed monthly benefits for life;
4)  Funds are invested by professional asset managers in a diversified portfolio that follows long-term investment strategies;
5)  The large-pooled assets reduce asset management and miscellaneous fees;
6)  Your defined-benefit pension plan provides spousal (survivor) financial benefits;
7)  Your defined-benefit pension plan provides disability benefits;
8)  The state is responsible for funding, investment, inflationary and longevity risks;
9)  Because you are not affected by Market volatility, your defined-benefit pension plan is a more effective protection than the defined-contribution savings plan;
10) Because teachers understand the value of such a plan, they are willing to give up higher wages;
11) A defined-benefit plan encourages a long-term career and stable workforce;
12) Your defined-benefit pension plan provides you with self-sufficiency in retirement; it is associated with far fewer households that experience food privation, shelter adversity and health-care hardship;
13) Your defined-benefit pension plan is less expensive for taxpayers than Social Security – a reason why legislators, et al. had negotiated for Illinois teachers to not pay into Social Security;
14) The Teachers Retirement System of Illinois is the 37th largest in the U.S. with 406,855 members (TRS, 2017);
15) The average investment returns for TRS: 8.8% (for 1986-2016) (TRS, 2016) and 7.54% (for 1996-2016) (TRS, 2017);
16) Your defined-benefit pension plan has an economic impact of over $4 billion on Illinois; the effect on Gross Domestic Product is $2.38 billion; jobs that are created: 30,448 (TRS, 2013).

A Defined-Contribution Savings Plan:

1) A defined-contribution savings plan (401(k), 403(b), 457) was not initially created as a retirement vehicle but rather as a supplementary savings account;
2) A defined-contribution savings plan shifts all the responsibilities and all of the risk from the employer to you; thus, your benefit is not guaranteed for life;
3)  Your benefit ceases when your account is exhausted;
4) There are no survivor or disability benefits and guarantees;
5)  Your benefit is based upon individual investment earnings;
6)  You assume all funding, investment fees, and inflationary and longevity risks;
7)  A defined-contribution savings plan does not have the pooled investments, professional asset managers, and shared administrative costs that a defined-benefit pension plan provides;
8) Though you bear no portability risks, accounts are not always rolled over when you change jobs;
9) Changeover costs to this plan could be significant;
10) Your employer (state) will have to bear the administrative costs of both defined-benefit pension and defined-contribution savings plans when you switch over;
11) “Payments to amortize unfunded liabilities for the defined-benefit pension plan may be accelerated” (National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS, 2011);
12) The Governmental Accounting Standards Board “requires [an] acceleration of unfunded liability payments when the defined-benefit pension plan is closed to be recognized on financial statements” (NIRS, 2011);
13) “No unfunded obligations [liabilities] for existing members are reduced when new members go into a defined-contribution savings plan” (NIRS, 2011);
14) “The loss of new members makes it difficult to finance the unfunded obligations of the defined-benefit pension plan” (NIRS, 2011);
15) The State of Illinois will not save money. Most of the State’s obligation to TRS is for contributions not paid during the past several decades; therefore, the deferred cost of underfunding cannot be eliminated by switching to a defined-contribution savings plan;
16) Shifting to a defined-contribution savings plan can raise annual costs by making it more difficult for Illinois to pay down existing liabilities. The plan will include fewer employees and fewer contributions going forward;
17) Even with a defined-contribution savings plan option, states and localities are still left to deal with past underfunding;
18) There is a several trillion dollar deficit between what 401(k) account holders should have and what they actually have;

19) “...The truth is this: the concept of a do-it-yourself retirement (401(k)s) [is] a fraud. It [is] a fraud because to expect people to save up enough money to see themselves through a 20- or 30-year retirement [is] a dubious proposition in the best of circumstances. It [is] a fraud because it allow[s] hustlers in the financial sector to prey on ordinary people with little knowledge of sophisticated financial instruments and schemes.

20) “And it [is] a fraud because the mainstream media, which increasingly relies on the advertising dollars of the personal finance industry, [sells] expensive lies to an unsuspecting public. When combined with stagnating salaries, rising expenses and a stock market that [does] not perform like Rumpelstiltskin and spin straw into gold, do-it-yourself retirement [is] all but guaranteed to lead future generations of Americans to a financially insecure old age. And so it [will].” To read the complete article, Click Here.

Sources: the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Teachers' Retirement System of Illinois (TRS) 

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