Keith P. Ambachtsheer, long an outspoken advocate for pension reform, gave a sober assessment of the state of the world’s workplace retirement plans, praising the relative strength of plans in northern Europe while declaring those in southern Europe to be a “disaster.”
When clients ask you whether the hodgepodge of social security programs, private savings accounts, and employer-sponsored retirement plans that we collectively rely on will be sufficient to provide them with a comfortable living after they stop working, you probably have an easy answer at the ready. "Ha!"
Whether in political history or analyzing spreadsheets of historic data, when looking back we need to be very aware of where we are looking back from.
Yes, a higher return on plan assets reduces the funding requirements for the pension plan and the expense that the sponsor must report. But the plan’s true economic cost is independent of the investment performance of the plan assets.
The sustainability of traditional public sector defined benefit (DB) plans has become front-page news and the subject of acrimonious debates usually framed in stark terms of DB versus DC (defined contribution). This either/or framing is unhelpful: It simply perpetuates the strongly held views of the defenders and critics of these two opposing pension models.
Retirement security is a key area of focus for the Future of Finance initiative at CFA institute, and we hosted an online forum featuring a panel of experts with varied backgrounds and perspectives to examine the size and scope of the public pension funding gap, debate its causes, and to consider potential solutions.
Over the past decade, the funding gap for US public pension plans has widened considerably, and many state and local plans today find themselves in desperate straits, facing an aggregate shortfall in excess of $4 trillion.
Mandatory retirement savings accounts is a hot topic, as evidenced by buzz around Meir Statman's recent article in the Financial Analysts Journal, as well as the number of recent articles and blog posts tackling the issue of pension security. While a number of people are calling for mandatory retirement savings for employees in the United States, there is vigorous debate as to whether this is the way forward.
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