Pew Finds $1.26 Trillion State Retirement Shortfall, Says States Only Have $31 Billion In Assets To Pay For $635 Billion In Liabilities

Tyler Durden's picture

For those wondering why the Fed's third mandate is so critical, and is arguably about more than padding the brokerage accounts of those top 400 US "taxpayers" who account for 10% of capital gains, the Pew center brings what could be the main reason. Which is that even while factoring an 8% discount rate (for most states, some are probably higher), in other words expecting 8% gains in their assets, "the gap between the promises states made for employees’ retirement benefits and the money they set aside to pay for them grew to at least $1.26 trillion in fiscal year 2009, resulting in a 26 percent increase in one year." The difference is broken down as follows: "State pension plans represented slightly more than half of this shortfall, with $2.28 trillion stowed away to cover $2.94 trillion in long-term liabilities—leaving about a $660 billion gap, according to an analysis by the Pew Center on the States. Retiree health care and other benefits accounted for the remaining $604 billion, with assets totaling $31 billion to pay for $635 billion in liabilities." In other words, states have roughly 5 cents for every dollars in health benefits obligations. Good luck with funding that absent America becoming Weimar. 

Some more from Pew:

The $1.26 trillion figure is based on states’ own actuarial assumptions. Most states use an 8 percent discount rate—the investment target that states expect to earn, on average, in future years. But there is significant debate among policy makers and experts about what discount rate is most appropriate for states to use when valuing pension liabilities. This is an important issue because, depending on how those liabilities are calculated, states’ total funding shortfall for their long-term pension obligations to public sector retirees could be as much as $1.8 trillion (using assumptions similar to corporate pensions) or $2.4 trillion (using a discount rate based on a 30-year Treasury bond). How states value long-term liabilities going forward will play an important role in defining the scale of their challenges and the actions they will have to take to meet them.

The Pew center's conclusion:

Far too many states are not responsibly managing the bill for their employees’ retirement.

Which is why the only resolution is for the Fed to recreate Weimar and to cause state asset holdings, which lately are probably shares of 3x beta stocks, in hopes that the state pension plan will not become the next "muni" scare.

And some charts:

Full report:

Pew Pensions Retiree Benefits 1200bn Shortfall 2011

h/t John Poehling

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TruthInSunshine's picture

...states have roughly 5 cents for every dollar in health benefits obligations.




p.s. - Ben Caught Stealing Bernank said he doesn't have legal authority to bail out (i.e. loan shark) the individual states. And he would never, ever monetize the U.S. deficit, either!

LawsofPhysics's picture

SNAP indeed and when that is all gone, dog food.

TruthInSunshine's picture

Here is Leo K's whining rant about "underpaid pension fund managers" (don't laugh - Leo K really published this heap of dog shit):

Texas Gunslinger's picture

My uncle is a retired lobbyist for the Illinois Education Association, and he has a $125000 year pension, plus full benefits.

Should I kill him?


blunderdog's picture

There's some commandment or something about that I think.

Smiting him would be just fine, though.  Smite him to death.

chumbawamba's picture

No, just steal his money and buy gold with it.  Then maybe give it to the schools, from where it was taken.

I am Chumbawamba.

andybev01's picture

Indeed; dogs are quite edible...


(CAPTCHA: 68 minus two equals __ ...seriously?)

NotApplicable's picture

And since you can't buy dog food with SNAP, a day will come when people will go to the black market to trade them for a big bag of Kibbles & Bits.

Also, the Po Folks Consumer Report will come online and begin rating the various pet foods on such scales as protein level, flavor, chewability, digestibility, and of course, price. Ratings will come from the users in exchange for free product.

SheepDog-One's picture

SNAP food stamp usage at all time record high, while wealth concentration and control is in the fewest hands ever. Well, its all seems highly bullish to me or something...I guess all that matters at all now is further Maniacal Monetization confirmed, party on at the Deadmans Ball!

PS- Ive been saying forever that bailing out states will not happen as Central Banksters gain NO benefit whatsoever in making Mom n Pops pension whole! They cant make money off it, so it will never happen!

SoNH80's picture

Yep, they're priming us for total abrogation.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, counting on any form of defined-benefit pension, SS, annuity, etc. is folly.

pan-the-ist's picture

Ok Genius, where do you put your money?

SoNH80's picture

I pay the taxes and mandatory contributions like everyone else, but what little I have left over, I put into silver and my own land.  I plan to work until I die, as much as I am able.

pan-the-ist's picture

So you'll be in the same boat as everyone else.  So why not pretend, like them, that everything will be fine?

SoNH80's picture

Just like I am to pretend that the Creator cares about me personally?  Well I don't, just like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin.  And, just like those men, I look at present reality and engage with it.  I have accepted my fate, and that of my nation, I try to warn those that will listen, and I try to make my own pathetic preparations for myself and my family.  What more can be done?  More and more people share Indiana Jones' horror, in "The Temple Of Doom", when he realizes that there is no one at the controls of the plane, and they are heading right for a Himalayan mountain.  So here I am puttering around on an Internet comments section, but if one person is able to improve his preparations for the future because of my insights, it's worth it.

Arrowflinger's picture

SNAP has added a million mouths in 5 months.

tarsubil's picture

One way they may benefit is complete control of states through Washington. Washington can hold the debts paid over every state's head and basically tell them how things will go. More control and power gets concentrated in Washington and that is a bankster paradise.

pan-the-ist's picture

So, to keep their freedom from the Federal Government, states should tax enough to meet their liabilities?  In other words, before a state can prove it can handle autonomy, it should have its house in order?

Dollar Damocles's picture

The public sector unions are a powerful special interest in their own right.  I wouldn't be suprised at all to see a state bailout.  But maybe after they have canabalized private sector retirement funds.

Arrowflinger's picture

Forbes in January of last year featured an analysis that was much more stark, as it used 10 year Treasury yields to depict the state of the states, instead of the typical 8% return estimates.




Buck Johnson's picture

You are correct, they can't legally bailout a states pension.  They would have to change the law, but I don't think they should even though they will via printing.  Because as soon as you bailout one state or open the door to this, then the other 49 states will want a bailout too and eventually it will be in the trillions not 630 billion.  The states are in alot worse shape than they are letting on.  What the guy quoted was statements that the state have to give to the public, but much of that data can be massaged.  When this whole thing implodes, it will make people insane with rage when they find out that they don't have anything.  And if you don't believe me google Prichard, Alabama, their town just stopped paying retirees pensions and benefits because they have no money.

In Fed We Trust's picture


Come on Tyler,

Show us a picture of a headless Arab!


Azannoth's picture

This is why the Govermnet should be Prohibited from, any health and retirement issues!

schoolsout's picture

My uncle just took the job as head of retirement for the state of SC...should be interesting.

falak pema's picture

depends what your aunt does in her spare time...if she has any to spare from her rose garden.

schoolsout's picture

the term "bagholder" came up in conversation...

Arrowflinger's picture

Pinata fits better. He won't be holding the bag that gets swattted. He will be the bag.

trav7777's picture

most of these states are absolutely FUCKED

falak pema's picture

How would you like your 50 fucks? Sunny side up? deep fried? or scrambled?

Dr. Richard Head's picture

I will take them rectally as prescribed by Dr. Geithner and Nurse Bernanke.

topcallingtroll's picture

And not the way we like it either.

LawsofPhysics's picture

This data is old, but should be noted.  Any surprise that New York has everything covered?  The financial sector remains a cancer that the broader sectors of the economy can no longer sustain.  Hedge accordingly.

dbTX's picture

Hedge against all inevitabilities, almost all probabilities and as many possibilities as you can

falak pema's picture

where have all the flowers gone...along with all the money...long time spending!

TruthInSunshine's picture

Leo K said that Pension Fund Managers are woefully underpaid in an article earlier today.

I responded by telling ole' Leo that 99.99% of what are overpaid Pension Fund Managers would have done far better to have invested in Vanguard No-Load Index Funds and then fired themselves.


Even far better, they could have merely bought gold, that "barbarous relic."

Mr Sir's picture

QE1 and QE2 already took care of this problem. This report is misleading in that it evaluates the assets as of June 2009. We all know most pension funds are 60% plus allocated to stocks which we all know are up nearly 50% since the PEW last valued the asset side of this asset/liability mismatch. Soon stocks will be at a new all-time high and then will move higher at a 45 degree angle until all of these funds are 105% funded. Problem solved.

hedgeless_horseman's picture

Good thing they BTFD.

Now, only the pensioners (need real returns) are screwed, and not the fund managers (need nominal returns).  Thanks, Ben!

Global Hunter's picture

what happens when more and more boomers start retiring and more and more funds hit some bids to raise some cash to meet current obligations?  

pan-the-ist's picture

You mean the entire system is a ponzi?

StychoKiller's picture

Ah, there you are, Mr. VanWinkle.  Enjoy your nap?  How about a shot of O.J.?

oogs66's picture

The Fed uses wealth effect to justify the success of QE2. Most of the wealth effect goes to a small subgroup that doesn't really notice the increased wealth - at least not in terms of additional spending.  What little wealth effect the average person gets is completely wiped out by the realization that they will not be able to receive the retirement or health benefits they expected.  That is the poverty effect Bernanke is missing.

nantucket's picture

good point, reminds me of some research i readthat indicated GDP impact of rising equity levels is incredibly small.  Here is the moneyshot info:

"it's well established - on the basis of both U.S. and international data - that the "wealth effect" from stock market changes is on the order of 0.03-0.05% in GDP for every 1% change in stock market value, and the impact tends to be transitory at that"

here is the link:

samsara's picture

That is the poverty effect Bernanke is missing.

 Bullshit.  Ben isn't "Missing" it.  He Get gets paid to IGNORE it.

The Fed is in essence owned by the David Rockefellers / Rothschilds.

He works for THEM,  They pay him to IGNORE people being destitute and to mumble in front of the camera.


gabeh73's picture

So the question is does the Fed lets the states go to the shitter so they can then blame states and claim we need more centralization...order out of chaos...problem, reaction, propose a "solution"....or is chaos and disorder and anger this would cause too great to bear for TPTB?

Misean's picture


This has been the 401K bubble since the 201K gallows humor jokes started 2 years ago.

Internet Tough Guy's picture

Big deal. Nominal promises mean nominal requirments. Print it up and hand it out. There's your worthless money, pilgrim.

Hedgetard55's picture



     Greenscam was quoted as saying they could guarantee your Social Security payment, but not that it would be worth anything.