Project

Public Sector Retirement Systems

Public Sector Retirement Systems
Many state and local retirement plans are on an unsustainable course, having failed to set aside enough money to fund the promises they have made.  To inform state policymaking, Pew provides  research on the fiscal challenges state and cities face as a result of their pension and retiree health promises.

With the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the project also offers technical assistance to states and municipalities as they undertake pension and retiree health care reforms to ensure their public sector retirement systems are affordable and sustainable, provide a secure retirement for workers, and preserve governments' ability to recruit and retain a talented public-sector workforce.

Coin stack
Coin stack
Issue Brief

The State Pension Funding Gap: 2017

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Issue Brief

After nine years of revenue growth and strong investment performance, the pension funding gap—the difference between a retirement system’s assets and its liabilities—for all 50 states remains more than $1 trillion, and the disparity between well-funded public pension systems and those that are fiscally strained has never been greater.

Video

States Are Struggling to Fund Pensions—Here’s Why

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Video

Today taxpayers are paying nearly twice as much to fund pensions as they did 10 years ago. But on average, state pensions are only 71 percent funded—amounting to more than $1 trillion dollars in debt. The bill for this debt has crowded out public spending on schools, roads, and public safety.

Connecticut
Connecticut
Article

Stress Testing in Connecticut Shows Reforms Stabilizing State Pension System

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Article

Stress Testing in Connecticut Shows Reforms Stabilizing State Pension System

Connecticut has taken critical steps in recent years to stabilize its underfunded pension systems for public employees, but state officials are rightfully concerned about whether those actions will be sufficient when the next recession hits. That’s why lawmakers passed a measure in 2017 requiring annual “stress tests” of the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS).

Hawaii State House
Hawaii State House
Article

Hawaii’s Pension Fund Positioned to Withstand Next Recession

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Article

Like many states, Hawaii has faced challenges in recent years setting aside enough money to fulfill pension promises made to its public employees. In 2017, the state reported $15.7 billion in assets to cover $28.6 billion in liabilities, just over half the amount needed. That was a stark contrast from 2000, when the retirement system was 94 percent funded.

Our Work

Data Visualization

State Retirement Fiscal Health and Funding Discipline

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Data Visualization

The funding gap between state pension system assets and benefits promised to workers reached $1.4 trillion in 2016. Underfunded public pension systems have become a significant fiscal challenge facing states and municipalities. Although some plans for public workers are well-funded, others failed to set aside enough money to fund the pension promises made to public employees and took on risks that they weren’t able to manage.