Public Pension Plans Need to Put a Year of Good Investment Returns In Perspective



For the last 20 years, state and local pension plans’ assumed rates of return have been far too optimistic. The distributions of average (geometric mean) assumed investment returns and actual returns from 2001 to 2020 demonstrate this. The figure below shows the distribution of the average assumed investment return rate versus actual investment returns for 200 of the largest state and local pension plans in the United States. The median assumed rate of return over the last 20 years was 7.7 percent per year, the median actual rate of investment return for these public pension plans was 5.7 percent.

This two percent difference helps to explain the nearly 30 percent drop in the average pension plan funded ratio over the same period. In recent years, many pension plans lowered their assumed rates of return.

Author(s): Truong Bui, Jordan Campbell

Publication Date: 30 June 2021

Publication Site: Reason Foundation