1. DB’S OUTPERFORM DC’S…AGAIN: Towers Watson reports that from 1995 to 2011, DB plans outperformed DC plans by an annual average of 76 basis points. DB plans outperformed DC plans in 13 of the 17 years analyzed. In 2011, the performance gap between DB and DC plans narrowed by almost 50%, primarily due to strong DC investment results in 2009. The year 2011 was a good one for DB plan investment returns. The median investment return for DB plans was 2.74%, while the median return for DC plans was a disappointing –0.22%. The nearly three-percentage-point difference in performance is the widest since 1995, when Towers Watson began making the annual comparisons. DB plans have long been hailed for their ability to deliver benefits efficiently. Also, it is generally less expensive to provide benefits via a DB plan than to provide the same level of benefits via a DC plan. Why? -- Because the effects of better investment results, lower investment fees, longer time horizons and professional management. Unfortunately, most newly hired American workers count on a DC plan as their primary or only employer-provided retirement benefit. The shift toward DC brings with it significant workforce issues. The lower level of benefits typically offered in such plans, combined with weaker investment returns, means that fewer employees are likely to be prepared for retirement, and that we will see a growing population of the "working retired." To address this concern, DC plans have been taking on more characteristics of DB plans. For example, some DC plans have options for auto-enrollment and automatic increases in participants' contributions. And some allow participants to opt for professional investment management, with investments in target-date funds. All of these things can help plan participants improve their investment returns, which will become even more important as more workers without DB plans approach retirement. However, if no steps are taken to help employees secure an adequate retirement income stream, it will become increasingly difficult for employers to manage the flow of talent and maintain orderly retirement patterns. Such difficulties can have untold impact on any organization's bottom line.
2. EBRI “EXPLAINS” RECENT DC/DB COMPARISON: Employee Benefit Research Institute recently published an analysis of a direct comparison of the likely benefits under specific types of 401(k) plans and defined benefit pension plans (See C & C Newsletter for July 18, 2013, Item 5). As anyone who has worked with employment-based retirement plans knows, individual participant outcomes can vary widely based on a complex combination of decisions by both those that sponsor the plans and the individual workers who are eligible to participate in them, as well as a host of external factors (notably the investment markets) that lie outside their control. The EBRI report took pains not only to select but to explain the key assumptions in its analysis. As it turns out, the analysis highlighted a number of circumstances in which traditional pensions (where offered) could produce a higher benefit at retirement -- and some in which DC were superior in that regard. However, some of the reporting and commentary that followed its publication suggest that some either did not read with care the entire analysis, or chose to ignore the totality of the report. In Q&A format, here are some of those mischaracterizations:
- Did the report conclude that 401(k) benefits were better for almost every age and income cohort? No. While an analysis of just the median results for just the baseline assumptions might suggest this conclusion, the EBRI report followed with seven different sensitivity analyses with different assumptions that produce different results. Moreover, the entire analysis was restricted to employees currently ages 25–29, because those individuals would have the opportunity for a full working career with those 401(k)s, as well as the modeled DB results.
- Did the study make assumptions that are biased toward 401(k)s? Quite the contrary. The baseline used historical averages and ran many sensitivity analyses that were biased away from 401(k)s to test how robust the results were.
- Are not workers today changing jobs more frequently than they did during the heyday of DBs? Actually, no. While it was not an explicit part of this report, a recent EBRI article points out that the data on employee tenure (the amount of time an individual has been with his current employer) show that so-called career jobs never existed for most workers. Indeed, over the past nearly 30 years, the median tenure of all wage and salary workers age 20 or older has held steady, at approximately five years. While the new analysis focused on the outcomes for younger workers, including implications of their tenure trends on DB accumulations, the historical turnover trends suggest that this would have been problematic for all DB accumulations among previous generations of workers, as well.
- Were the rates-of-return scenarios realistic for 401(k) participants? The analysis presented baseline results under historical return assumptions that were adjusted for expenses by reducing the gross return by 78 basis points. Additionally, sensitivity analysis was also conducted by reducing the returns by 200 basis points to determine the robustness of the findings.
- What about the fact that private sector pensions are largely funded exclusively by employers, while much of that burden falls on individual workers in 401(k) plans? The report acknowledges this difference, but was a comparative analysis of future benefits from private sector voluntary enrollment plans versus two stylized types of defined benefit plans -- not the financial impact on the individual participants during the accumulation period, or how they might deploy assets not committed to retirement savings. However, a comparison of all aspects of this difference would likely need to incorporate assumptions that more costly employer contributions to a plan (whether DB or 401(k)) will be at least partially offset by lower wages over the long run, everything else equal.
- Is it reasonable to compare defined benefit and 401(k) plan benefits? Several other reports have an implied assumption that 401(k) plans are unable to generate the same amount of retirement income (regardless of the source of financing). One of the primary objectives of the EBRI report was actually to test whether these implicit assumptions were correct.
- So, which is better -- a defined benefit plan or a 401(k)? There is no single answer because a multitude of factors affects the ultimate outcome: interest rates and investment returns; the level and length of time a worker participates in a retirement plan; an individual’s age, job tenure, and remaining length of time in the work force; and the purchase price of an annuity, among other things. The best answer depends on an incorporation of all relevant factors, tools to provide a thorough analysis and an open mind with which to consider the results.
Boy, EBRI must have taken a lot of flak on this one.
3. NCPERS WEIGHS IN ON “SAFE” ACT: National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems has responded to supporters of the recently introduced Secure Annuities For Employee (SAFE) Retirement Act. (See C & C Newsletter for July 18, 2013, Item 9). Contrary to the politically opportunistic fiction being bandied around, Detroit’s bankruptcy filing is not the result of huge, unfunded public employee benefits such as pensions. Detroit’s story is that of a once great American city that has experienced unprecedented population loss, tax base erosion, property value decline and loss of economic competitiveness. Once the nation’s fourth most populous city, it is now barely in the top 20. And as a one-industry town, Detroit’s fortunes have suffered mightily with the decline of the U.S. auto industry from world leader to struggling competitor in the global marketplace. Public pensions are not part of Detroit’s problem. In fact, its public pensions are well funded. Throughout the country, public pensions are typically well funded, financially healthy and sustainable for the long term. The few plans that are in trouble are in jurisdictions that failed adequately to fund those plans during boom economic times. Some would exploit Detroit’s dilemma to push an ill-considered political agenda to dismantle public pensions and enrich life insurance companies. They should note that during the more than 150 years of public pension history, no public pension plan has ever asked for a federal bailout. But, guess what? Plenty of life insurance companies have failed -- 170 of them between 1975 and 1990! Those championing this reform legislation could perform a far greater service for states, municipalities and their taxpayers if they would turn their attention to America’s real retirement crisis: the private sector’s retirement savings deficit is running upwards of $14 trillion -- meaning future retirees will have insufficient assets, will be a drag on economic activity and will put higher demands of public services. Resolving the private sector retirement crisis is crucial to the nation’s economic well-being and to state and local financial security -- and deserves to take center stage in the public debate.
4. PUBLIC PENSIONS ARE NOT PART OF DETROIT’S PROBLEM: In reading NCPERS’ response to the SAFE Retirement Act (see Item 3, above), one sentence caught our eye: “Public pensions are not part of Detroit’s problem.” We thought: “how could that statement possibly be true?” Well, we did a little research and found that the pension funds’ actuary has determined that the police and fire system is 96.1% funded and the general retirement system is 77% funded. (Even emergency manager Kevyn Orr, using heaven-knows-what assumptions, found that the percents funded are, respectively, 78% and 65% -- hardly crisis territory.) Incidentally, less than one-in-three street lights are operational in Detroit, and there are 80,000 abandoned structures that it cannot afford to demolish. Dramatic police layoffs have resulted in an average wait time of 58 minutes for 9-1-1 calls. The average pension for a Detroit city worker is around $19,000. Police and fire retirees, who do not receive social security benefits, collect about $30,000 a year. The tragedy of Detroit cannot -- and should not -- be laid at the feet of its pension plans.
5. WISCONSIN -- THE POLITICS OF COERCING PUBLIC EMPLOYEES TO LIVE IN TOWN: Another perpetual issue is back in the news with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's signing of a provision in the state budget that outlaws residency requirements for most municipal employees, and strictly limits them for police and firefighters. The demise of residency requirements, according to governing.com, is long overdue, but the state imposing the ban on Wisconsin's municipalities is a less-than-ideal way to achieve it. At least 114 Wisconsin cities and 30 counties have varying levels of residency requirements, so there has been no shortage of reaction to the new law. Its opponents are headed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who warned that half the city's public-safety workers might move out of the city. The city's council agreed, voting to continue enforcing the ordinance that has been in effect since 1938. The state law's validity will likely be decided by the courts. Barrett and other opponents are relying on a 1924 amendment to the state constitution that prohibits interference with city operations, subject only to the constitution and legislative matters of statewide concern. The case will come down to whether municipal residency requirements are such a matter. (We are betting not.) Residency requirements are essentially an admission that cities must coerce people to reside there. Only working families prompt more flowery rhetoric from elected officials than the virtues of a growing middle class. But the best way for cities to attract middle class families, and make residency requirements a non-issue, is to deliver good schools and safe streets.
6. BOOMER VS. BOOMER: The Insured Retirement Institute has released new research chronicling how different workplace experiences and employee benefit histories are causing a great divide among early and late Baby Boomers regarding their financial security and outlook on retirement. IRI research shows that those on the tail end of the Boomer cohort will be confronted with added challenges, and are less prepared financially to overcome them. While the percentage of all Boomers who are confident they have sufficient funds to cover their retirement years sunk to 34% in 2013, results varied within the broader group. Early Boomers, those between 61 and 66, were slightly more optimistic, with 42% believing they have enough savings to live comfortably throughout retirement. But for late Boomers, 50 to 55, only 25% shared this confidence. Here are some other key findings:
• While savings are lagging for both groups, 47% of late Boomers reported having less than $100,000 saved for retirement, compared to 32% for early Boomers.
• 43% of late Boomers identified a defined contribution plan as a major source of retirement income, compared to 36% of early Boomers.
• Insufficient savings is the most common reason late Boomers are uncertain as to when they will retire, as stated by 27%. By contrast, the most common reason for the uncertainty among early Boomers, as stated by 20%, is that they enjoy working.
• Of late Boomers, 31% are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage and 34% are financially supporting an adult child, compared to 20% and 21%, respectively, of early Boomers.
• More late Boomers remain in the labor force, 80%, compared only to 43% of early Boomers.
7. STATES THAT BET BIG ON SIN: Among tax levies, so-called sin taxes are among the most controversial. Critics argue that adding costs to alcohol, cigarettes, betting on ponies and the like unfairly hurts lower-income people. Proponents say the taxes promote health -- making cigarettes more expensive, for example, thus reducing smoking -- a consequence that seems true, according to many studies. States say they put the revenue to good use, for schools and health-care services. Here are the ten states with the greatest percentage of total tax revenue derived from “sin,” ranked from least to most. In many cases, the least sinful states become meccas for fallen shoppers. Sin taxes include tax revenue from tobacco, alcohol and pari-mutuels (horse racing, dog racing and jai-alai) provided by the State Government Tax Collections survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. The survey does not include taxes from gambling, prostitution (where legal) and other vices, because state governments account for such tax revenue in multiple ways, according to the Census Bureau. Data initially compiled by Bloomberg Rankings follow:
• Texas - $2,414.5M
• New York - $1,893.3M
• Pennsylvania - $1,457.8M
• California - $1,257.5M
• Michigan - $1,105.5M
• Ohio - $948.4M
• New Jersey - $927.4M
• Florida - $917.9M
• Illinois - $892.9M
• Washington - $821.7M
Notably, at -4.8%, Florida had the fourth largest reduction in sin tax.
8. RUNNING GOVERNMENT LIKE A STARTUP: The belief that there is little or nothing for government to learn from the private or nonprofit sectors is not just outdated, it is a myth. Leaders of successful organizations in all sectors pay little attention to where new ideas originate, and instead focus on aggregating innovation and effective practices from wherever they can. At first glance, according to governing.com, techniques for starting a successful business might not seem to have much in common with leading effective, transformational government. But the two actually have a great deal in common: not least the atmosphere of volatility and uncertainty in which both increasingly must operate. For government leaders who are looking to restart their organizations, these foundational principles of successful business startups should serve as a guide:
- Operate from a solid business model: A plan for earning a profit is the hallmark of every successful business. While the idea of a profit is irrelevant to the public sector, a sound business model can help ensure that any organization always operates in the black.
- Analyze the market: An unfortunate reaction to the Great Recession is that many governments have relied on across-the-board budget cuts. This practice assumes that everything that government does is of equal value in the marketplace, which is not accurate. The most significant challenge public leaders face is how to determine a program's market viability.
- Provide a brilliant product or service: As any innovative business startup knows, ordinary or average is not good enough. Measuring outputs of government's "products" -- number of permits issued, size of enrollment, ridership, gallons of water treated, response time -- may be the standard, but it is not the way to a brilliant product or service. What leaders should focus on is collaborating with the public to co-define what is "brilliant."
- Remember that time is money: Contrary to conventional wisdom, this adage is especially true in the public sector, and not just because many government employees are paid by the hour. Consider road-improvement projects. Typically, a highway project is awarded to the contractor that submits the lowest bid. The duration of the project is not as high a priority as the bottom-line cost to the taxpayer. But nothing infuriates a motorist more than a long line of detour cones with no one in sight working.
- Build a high-performing team: Leaders of successful business startups place a high priority on fostering a collaborative and inclusive workplace culture that seeds innovation. Similarly, in the public sector, optimizing employee capabilities requires a sound talent-management strategy, one that leverages "next practices" and in which leaders recognize their roles as educators-in-chief, to recruit, retain and develop people needed to deliver great government. Creating a shared understanding for employees across the organization about expectations and accountability is fundamental to building and sustaining that kind of high-performing work team.
Starting a new business is risky, and so is creating a high-performing government. But in maneuvering through these disruptive and unpredictable times, leaders who want to revolutionize government cannot rely on conventional public sector wisdom, and they cannot afford to worry about where the good ideas come from either. Read the entire informational piece athttp://www.governing.com/columns/mgmt-insights/col-high-performing-government-lessons-business-startups.html.
9. THE YOUTHIFICATION OF AMERICA?: The nation’s aging population and corresponding wave of baby boomers nearing retirement age are undeniable demographic phenomena throughout much of the country. But, according to governing.com, a few select areas are not only bucking the trend, but actually appear to be getting younger. In each of these areas, there is at least one primary driver shifting demographics in the opposite direction. The following five regions illustrate rare cases where the population appears to be getting younger:
- District of Columbia. Fueled by an influx of young people, the District of Columbia is one of the few areas of the country where the aging population might not be clearly noticeable. D.C.’s median age decreased 0.2 years between 2010 and 2012. Working professionals, ages 25 to 29, are moving there to fill high-skill jobs.
- Honolulu. Honolulu County also is not aging to the same degree as the rest of the country, but for reasons different than D.C. and others on the list. Honolulu’s median age dropped 0.6 years between 2010 and 2012, the largest decrease among the most populous U.S. counties. Decline is attributable to international migration.
- Okaloosa County, Fla. (Okaloosa County?): Regions boasting a large military presence see their demographics fluctuate significantly as bases gain or lose enlisted personnel and contractors. One clear example is Florida’s Okaloosa County, home to Eglin Air Force Base, one of the nation’s largest military installations. Recently, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission resulted in an additional 2,500 members of the 7th Special Forces Group, along with approximately 1,200 others enlisted in a different unit.
- North Dakota. Of the top 25 counties nationally with the largest drop in the median age, twelve are found in North Dakota! The tech sector, particularly in eastern region, has created high-paying jobs that attract younger workers, some of whom may have originally left North Dakota for what they thought were greener pastures. The state’s 3.2% unemployment rate remains the nation’s lowest.
- Midland-Odessa, Texas. Like North Dakota, the Midland-Odessa corridor in western Texas continues to draw a steady stream of new workers. Buoyed by the oil and natural gas industry, the region’s economy is clearly one of the nation’s strongest. The sector’s local monthly employment is up 15% from just last year, and the added jobs further support growth in other industries throughout the region. (Incidentally, in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where the median age is 38.8, the median age increased 0.6 years since 2010.)
10. 4-YEAR-OLD MAYOR RUNS TOWN: Supporters of the mayor in the tiny tourist town of Dorset, Minnesota, can stuff the ballot box all they want, as he seeks re-election. The mayor -- a short guy -- is known for his fondness for ice cream and fishing. And he has the county's top law enforcement official in his pocket. Say hello to Mayor Robert "Bobby" Tufts. He is 4 years old and not even in school yet. Bobby was only 3 when he won election last year as mayor of Dorset (population 22 to 28, depending on whether the minister and his family are in town). Dorset, which bills itself as the Restaurant Capital of the World, has no formal city government. Governing.com reports that each year the town draws a name during its Taste of Dorset Festival, and the winner gets to be mayor. Anyone can vote as many times as he likes -- for $1 a vote -- at any of the ballot boxes in stores around town. Bobby is running for a second term. This form of government might be better than some we have around here… it Depends.
11. WHY NOT TO TAKE SOCIAL SECURITY BEFORE NORMAL RETIREMENT AGE: Many working adults dream of retiring early, collecting Social Security retirement payments and relaxing on a beach somewhere. However, collecting Social Security benefits before the normal retirement age might not be the best choice for most people who retire early, according to Hutchinson Financial, Inc. Social Security rules allow retirees to begin receiving payments as early as 62 years of age, even though the normal retirement age for most Americans is now between 66 and 67. But Hutchinson warns those who choose to retire early of possible limitations and penalties imposed on those who receive Social Security benefits early. For instance, collecting Social Security early results in significantly reduced benefits for the balance of a retiree’s lifetime. The reduced payment might not matter if you have plenty of other retirement savings to make up the difference and are still able to live your life as you choose. However, for those adults over the age of 60 who do not have significant retirement earnings, collecting Social Security payments early could make the difference between a comfortable lifestyle and a constant struggle. In addition, until one reaches normal retirement age (as defined by Social Security), he is limited as to what he can earn without affecting his retirement age. The point is if you plan to retire early and take Social Security early, it is pretty important that you have enough income overall to support your lifestyle without working to produce earned income. If you are thinking about retiring early, consider trying to make it without taking Social Security early. In this way, you will keep your options open and maintain maximum flexibility.
12. WILL YOU OUTLIVE YOUR SAVINGS?: In the good old days, retirement was pretty simple -- or so says USA TODAY. You worked 30 years, got a pension and put your money in bonds to make it last. But, as they say, this is not your father's retirement. Back then, life expectancy was such that people spent less than a decade in retirement. Today, after working for 30 years, it is not out of the question to spend another 30 years in retirement. And that scenario, for lots of people, is the big worry. People getting ready for retirement are worried that they will not be able to save enough to last. And people already in retirement worry they will outlive their nest eggs. More than half respondents to a recent survey said they were worried about outliving their savings. One key, financial planners say, is to set a budget in retirement, as you do in your working life. But it is even more important to stick to that budget in retirement, since you are living on a fixed amount of money. Early in retirement is usually hardest for people to stay on budget. They can start out with their 401(k) or pension in a lump sum, and for the most part, it is the most money they have ever had in their lives. The issue is that the money has to last for 30 years. For that reason people should think of it more in terms of income stream, and not as a balance. The two obvious things that determine how long your money lasts are how much you save before you retire and how much you spend after retirement. One financial counselor uses three rules of thumb to determine if the client is at risk for running out of money in retirement: first is the length of retirement; if the client is young and healthy, he should prepare for a longer retirement. Second, the client must have the discipline to stick to a plan. Third, the client must be able to stay on a budget. And then, there is inflation to consider. Inflation is why it is important to make sure you continue to have equities in your portfolio in retirement. Inflation at 3% will double the rate of everything you buy in twenty-four years. So if it takes $40,000 for your lifestyle this year, it will take $80,000 in 2037. If your portfolio has not been growing, you will not have enough money in there to take out twice as much. The key to gaining confidence in long-term savings is to adjust as you go along. Although you start with a plan, expect to make changes. Have confidence to enjoy retirement and then concentrate on more fun things.
13. PAID LEAVE BY OCCUPATION: In March 2013, about three-quarters of all workers in private industry and state/local government had access to paid holidays and paid vacations (76% and 74%, respectively), while roughly two-thirds had access to paid sick leave (65%). Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, also found the proportion of management, professional, and related workers who received paid sick leave (85% percent) was larger than the proportion who received paid holidays and paid vacations (79% and 75%, respectively). Among other occupation groups -- sales and office; natural resources, construction and maintenance; production, transportation, and material moving; and service occupations -- the reverse was true: the percentage of workers who received paid sick leave was smaller than the percentage with paid vacations and paid holidays. Paid leave was least common among service occupations. Paid leave was more likely to be provided for workers in protective service occupations than for workers in other service occupations.
14. WHY OUR COUNTRY IS IN TROUBLE: Access the following link to learn from one simple illustration why our country is in such trouble: http://goo.gl/WPQqpA.
15. RICH OR POOR, IT IS GOOD TO HAVE MONEY: UBS Wealth Management recently reported on the sentiment of affluent and high net worth investors. Here are the top insights:
- Wealth equals no financial constraints on activities. (But when asked to assign a dollar amount to being wealthy, a majority of investors say it takes $5 Million.)
- Cash is still “king.” (On average, investors have been holding 20% in cash over the past three years.)
- Investors control risk by bucketing their money.
- Four-out-of-five investors provide financial support for adult children or aging parents. (One-in-five is sharing a home with those adults.)
- Comprehensive financial planning must include long-term care and financial support across generations. (When a financial planner addresses those concerns, confidence in achieving goals skyrockets to 85%).
16. MIAMI HEAT NO SO HOT: European soccer giant Real Madrid, tops Forbes’s list of the world’s most valuable sports teams. Owned by its club members, Real Madrid is valued at $3.3 billion. Number 2 is Manchester United, valued at $3.165 billion, and owned by Florida’s Glazer family, followed by Barcolena Soccer at $2.6 billion. Always near the top, the New York Yankees, worth $2.3 billion, come in fourth. The Dallas Cowboys have been the NFL’s most valuable team since 2007. This year, at $2.1 billion, the team is number 5 overall. Rounding out the top 10 are New England Patriots ($1.635 billion), Los Angeles Dodgers ($1.65 billion), Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion), New York Giants ($1.468 billion), and Arsenal Soccer ($1.326 billion). With thirty teams in the top 50, the NFL occupies 60% of this year’s list. The average value of the top 50 teams is $1.24 billion, which is a 16% increase from last year. There are 33 teams worth $1 billion versus 24 last year. Two years ago there were not any teams worth $2 billion; now there are five. There were two surprises, at least to us: the Miami Dolphins at 25 ($1.06 billion) and the Miami Heat nowhere to be found. Of course the Miami Marlins and the Florida Panthers did not make the cut.
17. THE UNITED STATES OF AGING SURVEY 2013: Are today’s older adults ready for the realities of aging in America? Are America’s communities ready to meet the needs of the rapidly growing senior population? National Council of Aging surveyed 4,000 U.S. adults to examine what underlies American seniors’ perspectives on aging, and how the country can better prepare for a booming senior population. Some key findings follow:
- When asked what is most important to maintaining a high quality of life in their senior years, staying connected to friends and family was the top choice of 4 in 10 seniors, ahead of having financial means (30%).
- Seniors focused on taking care of their health are more optimistic about aging: two-thirds of optimistic seniors have set one or more specific goals to manage their health in the past 12 months, compared with 47% of the overall senior population.
- Seven in one seniors feel the community they live in is responsive to their needs, but slightly less than half believe their community is doing enough to prepare for the future needs of the growing senior population.
18. WHEN INSULTS HAD CLASS: I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure. Clarence Darrow
19. PHILOSOPHY OF AMBIGUITY: I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.
20. TODAY IN HISTORY: In 1790, 1st U.S. census (population 3,939,214; 697,624 are slaves).
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