New Research Offers Comprehensive Guide on Public Sector Hybrid Retirement Plans

Full report link: https://www.nirsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Hybrid-Handbook-F8.pdf

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A new report provides a comprehensive  overview of the many aspects of public sector hybrid retirement plan designs. The report finds that some shifts to hybrid designs were made without a proper evaluation of the long-term implications of the plan changes. In contrast, other hybrids are well-thought-out and more likely to provide retirement security to employees, enabling public employers to recruit and retain a qualified workforce.

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A hybrid is not one particular plan design, but instead is an umbrella term capturing a wide range of different plan designs. Some hybrids are defined benefit (DB) pensions with risk-sharing provisions, while others blend attributes of DB and defined contribution (DC) plans. Each of these plan designs offers tradeoffs in terms of retirement benefits, risks, and costs.

Author(s): Dan Doonan, Elizabeth Wiley

Publication Date: 10 May 2021

Publication Site: National Institute on Retirement Security

UNITE HERE Launches Website for Beneficiaries of Pension Plans Taken Over by Athene

Link: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210503005554/en/UNITE-HERE-Launches-Website-for-Beneficiaries-of-Pension-Plans-Taken-Over-by-Athene

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As Athene takes control of pension plan assets, it seeks to profit by earning more from investment returns than it is required to pay out to recipients. Athene uses Bermuda-based reinsurance subsidiaries to reinsure most deposits. Apollo manages most of Athene’s assets in exchange for fees. Apollo invests some of Athene’s assets in loans and structured debt products originated or securitized by Apollo affiliates.

Apollo Global Management created Athene in 2009 and has managed its assets since its inception. On March 8, Apollo announced its plan to acquire and merge with Athene.

UNITE HERE’s new website will provide information and resources to the beneficiaries of plans taken over by Athene. It includes facts about the recent JCPenney transaction, links to reporting on Athene’s investment practices, and contact information for relevant regulatory agencies. Beneficiaries can use the site to sign up for updates.

Publication Date: 3 May 2021

Publication Site: Businesswire

Life and Health Reinsurers Only Moderately Affected by Coronavirus Pandemic

Link: https://www.fitchratings.com/research/insurance/life-health-reinsurers-only-moderately-affected-by-coronavirus-pandemic-19-04-2021

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Despite more than 2.8 million coronavirus pandemic-related deaths globally so far, the world’s five largest life and health (L&H) reinsurers – Hannover Rueck SE, Munich Reinsurance Company, Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated, SCOR SE and Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd – have only been moderately affected by heightened mortality losses and remained profitable in 2020. Fitch Ratings expects pandemic-related mortality claims to decline in 2021 due to the global rollout of vaccines. This assumes that virus variants will not diminish the effectiveness of the vaccines. L&H Reinsurers Remained Profitable in 2020The five largest L&H reinsurers reported declines in net earnings in 2020 from 2019 due to pandemic-related mortality claims. However, they remained profitable despite the high number of deaths globally.The key reason for this is the very low penetration rate of mortality covers amongst the older age cohorts globally, with very few exceptions such as the US, Canada or the UK. People aged 75 or higher have been most affected by the pandemic.Mortality Claims Will Decline in 2021Fitch believes that the global rollout of vaccines will prove successful, leading to a lower number of deaths linked to the pandemic in 2021 and 2022, and bases its credit analysis on this assumption. Virus variants pose the largest risk to this scenario as they may render vaccines less powerful or even useless.

Publication Date: 19 April 2021

Publication Site: Fitch Ratings

MassMutual Explores Near-Retiree Knowledge of Social Security Retirement Benefits During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Link: https://www.argus-press.com/news/national/article_5ecdc18f-9144-582e-9fd1-aeb1c64c8d90.html

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Just over one-third (35%) of near-retirees (age 55 to 65) failed and another 18% earned a grade of D on a basic knowledge quiz about Social Security retirement benefits, while only 3%, received an A+ by answering all 12 true/false statements correctly, according to the latest MassMutual Social Security consumer poll.

Even more startling, over a quarter (26%) of individuals age 60 to 65 have no idea of the full retirement age.

There is good news, however, and an improving trend.

A large majority (83%) are very knowledgeable about the consequences of receiving Social Security benefits before reaching their full retirement age. A whopping 94% know that if they take benefits before full retirement age, their benefits will be reduced as a result of filing early while 86% know that if they receive benefits before their full retirement age and continue to work, their benefits may be reduced based on how much they make.

Publication Date: 6 April 2021

Publication Site: Argus Press

Milliman analysis: Public pensions’ funded ratio hits new high at 79.0% in Q1 2021

Link: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/milliman-analysis-public-pensions-funded-ratio-hits-new-high-at-79-0-in-q1-2021–301271688.html

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In 2021, public pensions have continued their strong recovery from a year prior, with the funded status of the Milliman 100 plans increasing to 79.0% as of March 31, up from 78.6% at the end of December 2020 and 66.0% in Q1 2020. The Q1 2021 funded ratio is the highest recorded in the history of Milliman’s Public Pension Funding Study.

“While 2021 has proven to be a strong year for public pensions so far, there are still lingering questions around the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these plans,” said Becky Sielman, author of Milliman’s Public Pension Funding Study. “The past year has seen workforce volatility and strain on state budgets which could put downward pressure on funding in the future.”

Author(s): Milliman

Publication Date: 19 April 2021

Publication Site: PRNewswire

Marylanders Concerned about State’s Ability to Fund State Employee Pensions

Link: https://www.mdpolicy.org/research/detail/marylanders-concerned-about-states-ability-to-fund-state-employee-pensions

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With Maryland’s state pension fund nearly $20 billion in the red, a new statewide survey from the Maryland Public Policy Institute reveals that a large majority of voters are concerned about the state’s ability to fund pension benefits for public employees. The survey of more than 500 registered Maryland voters gauged public sentiment on the health of the state pension system and found that two-thirds of Marylanders are worried that the state will have to raise taxes to ensure adequate funding. Read the full survey at mdpolicy.org. 

More than 400,000 former and current state employees depend on the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, yet the system suffers from a $20.1 billion shortfall – or approximately $15,000 per Maryland resident.

Publication Date: 22 March 2021

Publication Site: Maryland Public Policy Institute

Report Contrasts State Government and Private Sector Employment Changes During Pandemic

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Massachusetts state government employment has been virtually flat during COVID-19 even as employment in the state’s private sector workforce remains nearly 10 percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. The study, “Public vs. Private Employment in Massachusetts: A Tale of Two Pandemics,” questions whether it makes sense to shield public agencies from last year’s recession at the expense of taxpayers.

“Compared to restaurants, retailers and other businesses, there was very little pressure on state government to cut costs associated with COVID’s economic fallout,” said Serena Hajjar, who authored the study. “The private sector has felt the bulk of the pain of this contraction.”

At one point in April 2020, total employment in Massachusetts was 23 percent below pre-pandemic levels, while at the same time state-level government employment was higher than it was in February 2020.

Author(s): Editorial Staff (press release)

Publication Date: 15 March 2021

Publication Site: Pioneer Institute

CalPERS and SBA Florida Vote FOR Effissimo’s Proposal to Toshiba

Link: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210314005038/en/CalPERS-and-SBA-Florida-Vote-FOR-Effissimo%E2%80%99s-Proposal-to-Toshiba

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California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)1 and State Board of Administration (SBA) of Florida2, the largest and fifth-largest public pension funds in the US, have publicly disclosed that they have voted FOR Effissimo Capital Management’s shareholder proposal to conduct an independent investigation of Toshiba Corporation’s (TYO: 6502) 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM).

SBA Florida cited three reasons for its supportive vote: “Conflicted review process; Insufficient resolution of outstanding concerns; Reasonably proportionate request.”

The votes by prominent institutional shareholders of Toshiba follow earlier disclosure by California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second-largest public pension fund in the US, that it was voting FOR Effissimo’s proposal.

Author(s): Effissimo Capital Management

Publication Date: 14 March 2021

Publication Site: Businesswire

DiNapoli: DOH Needs to Step Up Enforcement of Patient Safety Violations

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/03/dinapoli-doh-needs-step-enforcement-patient-safety-violations

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The State Department of Health (DOH) has failed to hold accountable certain health care providers including hospitals, nursing homes and individual nurses, for patient safety violations and use its power under the law to impose stronger fines. Additionally, DOH does not ensure amounts collected are directed to increase patient safety, as required, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

“Lisa’s Law was created to make health care in New York safer and give patients the knowledge they need to make informed decisions,” DiNapoli said. “The Department of Health generally has improved the public’s access to health care information. Too often, however, it gives negligent health care providers a slap on the wrist by not issuing financial penalties that can act as a deterrent against future incidents and help fund improvements in patient safety. DOH needs to do better.”

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 10 March 2021

Publication Site: Office of the NY State Comptroller

Teamsters Laud House Committee For Including Pension Reform In Stimulus Bill

Link: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/teamsters-laud-house-committee-for-including-pension-reform-in-stimulus-bill-301225317.html

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 The Teamsters are applauding the House Ways & Means Committee’s inclusion of a multiemployer pension reform measure in a broader stimulus package introduced by the panel yesterday.

In unveiling language included in the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, the House panel took the first step towards ensuring that millions of retirees and active workers who have played by the rules will receive the pension benefits they earned through years of hard work.

“The financial distress many of these plans are facing is beyond the control of retirees and workers,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “While multiemployer pension plans have been buffeted by economic turbulence over the decades, the situation has been seriously exacerbated by the current pandemic.”

Author(s): International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Publication Date: 9 February 2021

Publication Site: PR Newswire

DiNapoli: State Tax Revenues $2 Billion Lower Than Last Fiscal Year

Link: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/2021/02/dinapoli-state-tax-revenues-2-billion-lower-last-fiscal-year

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State tax receipts cumulatively through January of State Fiscal Year 2020-21 are nearly $2 billion lower than last year, according to the monthly State Cash Report released by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Overall, tax receipts are $1.7 billion higher than anticipated by the state Division of the Budget’s (DOB) January projections.

Tax receipts for the month of January totaled $11.4 billion. This is $550.5 million above last year and $1.7 billion above DOB’s latest projections.

Author(s): Thomas DiNapoli

Publication Date: 18 February 2021

Publication Site: Office of the New York State Comptroller

Global pension funds weather the storm of 2020

Link: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/global-pension-funds-weather-storm-151200506.html

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 Global institutional pension fund assets in the 22 largest major markets (the P22) continued to climb in 2020 despite the impact of the pandemic, rising 11% to $52.5 trillion at year-end, according to the latest figures in the Global Pension Assets Study conducted by Willis Towers Watson’s Thinking Ahead Institute.

The seven largest markets for pension assets (the P7) — Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. — account for 92% of the P22, unchanged from the previous year. The U.S. remains the largest pension market, representing 62% of worldwide pension assets, followed by Japan and the U.K. with 6.9% and 6.8%, respectively.

Author(s): Willis Towers Watson (press release)

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance