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Faced with recruiting crisis, Alaska mulls reopening of 2 pension plans


Nearly two decades after the Alaska Legislature closed the state's two defined benefit plans for public employees and teachers, the state is closer than ever to reopening those plans as it faces a recruitment and retention crisis for general employees, teachers and public safety officials.

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Bill reviving public employees pension system advances to Senate floor


A bill boosting public employee retirement benefits is heading to the state Senate floor after being advanced out of the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. However, while the bill is one of the top three declared goals of the bipartisan Senate majority, its fate in the Republican-led House is far less secure.

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San Diego could soon get relief from crushing pension payments - if the city can prove it deserves it


The pension board debated seven payment plan options Friday but will hold a final vote in March.

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How, and when, should San Diego pay off its $3.4B pension debt? As budget woes loom, officials are weighing these options


The city's pension board will consider seven alternative scenarios Friday, with the annual pension payment rising to an all-time high of $527 million this year.

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Is renewed interest in DB plans real, or just a pipe dream?


The news around corporate defined benefit plans over the past couple decades has been bleak, with companies expeditiously freezing or terminating plans. But with some help out of Washington, experts say there's an opportunity for employers to reopen plans still on their books or provide their workers with guaranteed income in retirement.

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Long live public pension funds!


When Pensions & Investments launched in 1973, the passage of ERISA was on the horizon and corporate defined benefit plans faced a bright future that has since faded as the majority of private-sector workers have been moved to defined contribution plans. Will public-sector DB plans face a similar fate? Experts say despite numerous challenges, including lower capital market projections, rising contribution rates and an often charged political environment, public pension plans should continue to "muddle through" for decades to come.

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San Diego must make its largest ever annual pension payment this year--$448M


San Diego must make the largest annual pension payment in city history this July thanks to a combination of employee pay raises, weak investment returns and penalties for its unsuccessful attempt a decade ago to eliminate pensions for most city workers.

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San Diego's price tag to unwind Proposition B pension cuts climbs to nearly $200 million But the city may get more time to pay under a new proposal from the pension system actuary.


The price tag continues to grow for San Diego's unsuccessful attempt a decade ago to eliminate pensions for most city workers, but city officials found out this week they will likely get more time to come up with the money.

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PBGC issues multiemployer withdrawal liability proposal


The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has proposed a rule to provide interest rate assumptions for determining a withdrawing employer's liability to a multiemployer plan.

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PBGC loosens restrictions in multiemployer assistance rule


Multiemployer pension plan stakeholders are much happier now that the final rule for a new federal assistance program has loosened investing restrictions and adjusted the way aid awarded to struggling plans is calculated.

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Controversial pension rescue plan finalized


The White House on Wednesday heralded the finalization of a hotly debated plan to stabilize troubled pensions. Speaking in Cleveland, where he was joined by union workers and retirees, President Joe Biden announced a final rule implementing a financial assistance program for multiemployer pension plans. "Those retirees who lost their benefits will have them restored retroactively," Biden said. "We turned a promise broken into a promise kept."

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Multiemployer plans await final PBGC aid rules


It's been roughly six months since the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. began approving special financial assistance applications for struggling multiemployer plans, and while stakeholders are pleased with the pace of approvals and transparency from the PBGC, they're also eager for the agency to issue final rules concerning the amount of aid plans will receive.

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Pension board lowers San Diego's annual payment $31M in response to stock market gains last year


San Diego's pension board has unanimously approved lowering the city's pension payment nearly $31 million during the new fiscal year, from $414.9 million to $384.3 million.

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New analysis shows San Diego's pension system compares favorably to systems across state, nation


A new analysis shows the city of San Diego's pension system is in strong financial shape compared to similar systems across the state and the nation.

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Marin pension board takes conservative approach on big gains


Despite a 32% investment return in the last fiscal year, Marin County's public pension fund is playing it safe.

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San Diego's pension payment plunges $31M thanks to robust stock market


Strong investment returns fueled primarily by the stock market have shrunk San Diego's annual pension payment by nearly $31 million and reduced the city's pension debt below $3 billion.

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Blockbuster Gains Have Public Pensions Dialing Back Projections


One of the most worrisome risks for state and local governments just got a little more manageable. Blockbuster stock market gains are allowing U.S. public pensions to lower their assumed investment return and the chance that taxpayers have to make up any shortfalls.

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PBGC multiemployer rule gets mixed reviews


The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s interim final rule about how underfunded multiemployer plans can get special financial assistance is getting mixed reviews. The assistance was part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 enacted in March and provides an estimated $94 billion in federal assistance grants for the most at-risk plans to pay benefits if it will help them survive for 30 years.

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U.S. lawmakers' generosity on pensions is just a starting point for bolstering retirement security


The U.S. Congress recently rescued the retirements of more than 1 million workers who faced the prospect that the pensions they earned and had been promised might evaporate.

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Single-employer plans not forgotten in new law


While multiemployer pension provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 got more attention, relief for single-employer plans will be more significant and long-lasting, sponsor advocates say.

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Pension Solvency Relief Gets Fresh Shot in Democratic Congress


Saving underfunded pension plans from bankruptcy has a better chance of coming to fruition now that Democrats control both the White House and Congress. Under divided rule, lawmakers pushed pension solvency via standalone bills, as part of economic relief packages, and in supercommittee talks that ultimately failed because of partisanship. But with unified control, Democrats can expedite their utmost priorities in a simple majority-based budget reconciliation vote.

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San Diego's pension payment spiking $50M, worsening budget crisis during pandemic


San Diego's annual pension payment will rise by nearly $50 million this June, making it much harder for the tourism-reliant city to balance its budget while tax revenues continue their sharp slide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city's pension board is requiring a $49.3 million spike in the annual pension payment, from $365.6 million a year to $414.9 million, because estimates of long-term pension debt rose this year from just over $3 billion to $3.34 billion.

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Are There Cracks in Your Pension Plan?


Look up defined pension plans these days and words you don't want to see associated with the money needed to secure your retirement come up: broke, crisis, underfunded. It looks mighty scary, especially as the coronavirus keeps raging and the economy remains uncertain. The reality? Most plans are fine, though "a small but significant number are in trouble," says Jean-Pierre Aubry, director of state and local research for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

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Market opening up for more variable plans


The aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic on retirement plans and Congress' recent failure to achieve multiemployer pension reform could mean a boost for variable pension plans, pension experts say. The concept gained more visibility this year with a new variable annuity pension plan agreement between three major grocery companies and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Washington.

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COVID-19 Having Major Impact on Pensions


"The Impact of COVID-19 on Retirement Plans," a webinar hosted by the American Academy of Actuaries Pension Practice Council, explored how the coronavirus pandemic has affected various types of pension plans.

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Pandemic puts new focus on variable plans


Interest in variable plan designs appears to be growing, sparked in part by the increased market volatility and uncertainty of this unusual year.

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States Pull Back on Pension Payments as Virus Ravages Revenue


Colorado and South Carolina have pulled back from making additional payments to their underfunded pensions, moves that may play out in other states that are struggling to balance budgets as the coronavirus ravages tax revenue.

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Pandemic Puts More Stress On Struggling Pension System


The coronavirus outbreak has presented daunting challenges for an already-struggling multiemployer pension plan system. It's also amplifying calls for Congress to step up and pass legislation to protect against millions of retirees losing their financial livelihood.

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What the Economic Downturn Could Mean for Pension Plans


While there's no immediate danger that defined-benefit pension plans will fall short of resources to meet obligations during the pandemic crisis, many are taking their lumps as financial markets tumble. And the knock-on effects of the economic downturn could pose long-term challenges for pension plan sponsors as they try to meet their obligations to participants.

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San Diego pension debt climbs past $3B for first time


A new analysis shows San Diego's pension debt has climbed past $3 billion for the first time, forcing the city to increase its annual pension payment by more than $11 million this year despite a projected budget deficit of $84 million.

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Risk of pension meltdown grows due to inaction by U.S. Congress


The window is closing on the chance to avert a pension meltdown that will slash the retirement benefits of more than a million U.S. workers.

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North American trade deal won't include measure to rescue underfunded pension plans


A plan to shore up struggling pension plans key to the retirement of tens of thousands of Teamsters and other workers in Massachusetts lost its best chance of congressional approval this year when its Democratic backers left it out of a landmark trade agreement.

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The 2020 Retirement Landscape


I forecast that Congress would try to avert an insolvency crisis in multiemployer pension plans, which would threaten the retirement of more than 1 million workers and retirees. I was correct--lawmakers did try. But they have not succeeded, and action before the 2020 elections now seems unlikely, as the House and Senate are at complete loggerheads over how to solve the problem.

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PBGC's good news could sour quickly


As PBGC officials cautiously celebrate a second year of good fiscal news for the single-employer program, plan sponsors are equally guarded about what could happen if more plans drop out or Congress decides it is not done hiking premiums.

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Senate GOP proposes multiemployer reform bill


A Senate Republican proposal to help critically underfunded multiemployer pension funds and prevent more was introduced Wednesday by Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

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Looking to Washington for a Retirement Lifeline


It is going to be a busy fall for legislators and regulators dealing with retirement policy.

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Retired Teamsters wait for Congress to act on wobbly pension fund


The U.S. House passed a bill to prop up the failing fund. Now it's in the Senate's hands.

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Long process predicted for multiemployer reforms


U.S. House committee approval of a multiemployer pension reform package seems likely to be only the first step in a process that will see many changes before a final plan emerges.

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Health insurance premiums up 5% for state workers


Health insurance premiums for current and retired state employees will increase 5% next year under a plan approved Tuesday that involves reducing the amount of money set aside to pay unexpected large medical claims.

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Rx shift weighed for state retirees; Medicare option outlined to panel


Dropping drug coverage for retired state employees who are on Medicare would save $20 million a year for state employee and retiree health plans and lower the overall health care costs for 82% of the retirees, a consultant told an advisory panel on Friday.

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Actuary: Without changes, health insurance rates for state workers likely need big increase


Without a cut in benefits or other changes, health insurance rates for state employees will likely need to rise by double digits next year, an actuary told a state board Tuesday. The projection by John Colberg, an actuary with the consulting firm Cheiron of McLean, Va., is in line with what he told the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board last year about the outlook for 2020.

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Public plans receive their own mortality tables


The first mortality tables specifically for public-sector pension plans--identifying teachers as likely the largest public pension obligation cohort--might not surprise administrators of large plans, but it does offer them a way to benchmark to their peers.

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Senators introduce bill to help United Mine Workers pension fund


Six Democratic senators introduced a bill that aims to shore up the beleaguered United Mine Workers of America 1974 Pension Plan, Washington, and ensure that no miners lose their health care due to 2018 coal company bankruptcies.

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Some unions turning to variable benefit pension plan model


As a special committee in Congress continues to grapple with ideas to help struggling multiemployer pension funds and to keep others from the same fate, an increasing number of trustees are forging ahead with shared-risk or variable benefit plan designs that can better match benefits to market returns.

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For American Workers, 4 Key Retirement Issues to Watch in 2019


For American Workers, 4 Key Retirement Issues to Watch in 2019

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A million pension checks risk huge cuts without this fix


A multibillion-dollar pension shortfall is ready to shake up enough lives to pack a string of stadiums hosting the Super Bowl. But most people on the street aren't talking about the looming crisis, unless they're worried about seeing their own pension check slashed. Those living in fear include workers and retirees connected to the Central States Pension Plan, which covers Teamsters in Detroit and elsewhere.

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SFERS Board Cuts Rate of Return to 7.4%


The board of the $24.5 billion San Francisco Employees' Retirement System (SFERS) has approved a small reduction to its expected rate of return to 7.4% from 7.5%, retaining the system's status as having the most optimistic return projections of any public pension plan in California.

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Struggling multiemployer plans see help ahead at expense of healthy funds


With less than a week to produce a solution to a massive multiemployer pension underfunding problem, expectations of a special congressional committee are shifting from dramatic new ideas to some tough choices for plan sponsors.

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Denver Employees selects 2 for actuary roles


Denver Employees Retirement Plan hired Cheiron as consulting actuary and Gabriel, Roeder, Smith as reviewing actuary, said Randall Baum, chief investment officer, in an email.

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Time for Select Pension Committee to Shine as Midterms' Afterglow Dims


With the 2018 midterm elections mostly in the rear-view mirror, it's time for a special bipartisan congressional committee on pensions to complete its mission and come up with a comprehensive and fair solution that rescues financially struggling plans, helps save the federal agency backstopping pensions, and protects the hard-earned benefits owed to retirees and active workers.

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Struggling Multiemployer Pensions Need Drastic Fix


There are more multiemployer pension plans on the path to insolvency this year than there were last year and for many of them, the only chance they have at survival will have to come from Congress.

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List of struggling multiemployer plans grows in 2018


The number of multiemployer pension plans in crisis continues to grow, according to an analysis by Cheiron, released Thursday.

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New England Teamsters facing $5.1 billion pension shortfall, putting retirees at risk, study says


A pension plan covering more than 72,000 truck drivers and warehouse workers represented by the New England Teamsters union is the nation's second most underfunded multiemployer pension plan and is on track to run out of money within a decade, according to a new study by Cheiron.

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Pension risk assessment standards on deck


Pension plan sponsors of all types are keeping an eye on Nov. 1, when new actuarial standards on pension obligation risk assessment kick in.

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The Treasury Department last week approved a plan to reduce benefits paid out from the Teamster Local 805 Pension and Retirement Plan. That marks the eighth application approved under the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act since it was passed in 2014, and the fourth this year.

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San Diego officials divided over accelerating pension debt payoff


Proposals to accelerate paying off San Diego's pension debt of $2.76 billion are sharply dividing the city's pension board, which decided on Friday to delay any decisions until late October or early November.

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Controversy simmering over gauging pension obligations


Debate over the proper way to measure pension obligations is once again in the spotlight, with the Actuarial Standards Board considering yet another way to measure them and a special congressional committee on multiemployer pension plans debating whether current practices control enough for investment risks.

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Public Pensions Adopt Cost Sharing Mechanisms to Stem Volatility


Sandy Matheson, with the help of the fund's actuarial firm, Cheiron, put together a plan in which the risks of investment gains and losses weren't just assumed by taxpayers, but shared between local governments, their employees and retirees. Maine adopted the risk-sharing plan for municipal employees that participate in the system starting the fiscal year that began July 1. Matheson plans to brief lawmakers on extending it to state employees and teachers."

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Sandra Matheson and Gene Kalwarski Win Society of Actuaries Retirement 20/20 Contest for Papers on Public Pension Plans


Sandra Matheson, executive director of the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, and Gene Kalwarski, CEO, and founder of Cheiron have won a Society of Actuaries contest for papers about public pension plans.

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States Want Public Pensions to Assess Risks of Next Downturn


Colorado and Minnesota recently joined other states in moving to require public pension plans to undergo stress testing.

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A battle to hold on to pensions-- and the dreams they carried


"A major problem with the funding of many pension plans is the ratio of active to retired workers. It's swung from two active workers for every retired worker 20 years ago to one active worker for every five retired workers in some plans today," said Gene Kalwarski, chief executive of Cheiron in McLean, Va., which has multiemployer plans as its clients. "These funds are getting drained," Kalwarski said. "More and more people are living into their 80s or beyond, and there are fewer workers left behind to support them."

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Illinois public safety pension funds outside Chicago fare no better


The unfunded liabilities of local government public safety funds outside Chicago nearly doubled over the last decade, eroding funded ratios to below 60%.

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Sherrod Brown and Democrats have a plan to save pensions. Now Congress must decide if it's a rescue or a bailout


Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and top Democratic leaders want to lend billions of dollars to troubled union pension plans. The pension managers could take some of the money and pay former truck drivers, ironworkers, coal miners, clerks, bakers and confectioners their monthly retirement checks.

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Loan programs seen as viable answer to multiemployer woes


The dire straits faced by more than 100 struggling multiemployer pension funds are starting to draw attention in Congress, raising hopes that solutions, including a new federal loan program, are within reach.

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Schumer backs proposal to help troubled Teamsters pensions


Teamsters whose pension benefits were cut could see some future relief under a proposal backed by Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

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IRS releases new mortality tables for plan sponsors


The IRS issued updated mortality tables that plan sponsors will have to study quickly before they go into effect for plan years starting Jan. 1, 2018.

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Cheiron consulting actuary to be honored for volunteerism


Kenneth A. Kent, a consulting actuary with Cheiron in McLean, Va., will be recognized by his peers at the American Academy of Actuaries when he receives the Jarvis Farley Service Award at its annual meeting in November.

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Exclusive: U.S. agency claims huge hole in Westinghouse's pension plan


The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation estimates Westinghouse Electric Co. Pension Plan is underfunded by $937 million.

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American Academy of Actuaries To Honor Ken Kent With Jarvis Farley Service Award


The American Academy of Actuaries will present Cheiron's Ken Kent with the prestigious 2017 Jarvis Farley Service Award at the organization's Annual Meeting and Public Policy Forum, Nov. 14-15, 2017, in Washington.

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PBGC looking to partitions for relief


The PBGC's first approval of a multiemployer pension plan for benefit cuts with a partition is raising hopes that other plans will also be able to get partitions approved.

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Multi-Employer Pensions Divided Between Haves, Have Nots


Two recent reports that studied the funding levels of multi-employer pension plans alternately offer a half-empty, half-full view of the current health of defined benefit plans. Together, they depict a landscape where many pension funds are struggling, yet most of them are doing fine.

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Cheiron finds 114 multiemployer plans heading to insolvency


As many as 114 multiemployer pension plans expect to become insolvent within the next 20 years, according to an analysis released Tuesday by actuarial consulting firm Cheiron.

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Hotel Industry Trust That Left 401(k) for Pension Gets IRS OK


IRS approves UNITE HERE! Local 26 variable defined benefit pension plan designed by Cheiron.

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Partition May Be Pension Rescue Ticket for Some Plans


The PBGC's conditional approval of a Nashville, Tenn., pension plan's request to be partitioned may encourage trustees of other financially troubled plans covering union workers to use such a tool to help avoid insolvency.

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United Furniture Workers pension fund gets OK to reduce benefits


United Furniture Workers Pension Fund A, Nashville, Tenn., won approval from the Treasury Department to cut benefits for participants, including retirees.

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Treasury Department Gives Thumbs Up to Second Pension Rescue


A pension fund in Nashville is now the second plan covering unionized workers to receive Treasury Department approval to cut members' benefits.

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Detroit braces for hefty pension, debt payments


Facing annual pension and debt payments of more than $100 million for several years, Detroit is preparing its first 10-year financial report that will include potential sources of revenue such as the Pistons' expected move to the city and other downtown projects. The report, which will also detail how the city handles ballooning pension and debt payments beginning in 2024, will be key to the city maintaining its post-bankruptcy financial health and fulfilling its goal of getting out from state oversight by 2018, Detroit Chief Financial Officer John Hill said.

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Pension case could cost city millions


Lawsuits over San Diego's 2012 pension cutbacks could cost the city millions of dollars, but estimates of how much exactly the city would have to pay vary widely.

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State and school employees seeing health costs rise a little now, a lot later


Arkansas public school employees and retirees will see bigger contributions for their health insurance in 2017, but face even larger contributions in 2018 and 2019, Cheiron Inc.'s John Colberg told legislators. The increases in contributions were decided by the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board in July 2016.

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Fact Check: Will Phx pension reform cost taxpayers $350 million?


The Arizona Republic fact-checked an advertising campaign by a group of firefighters opposed to Proposition 487, a ballot initiative also known as the Phoenix Pension Reform Act, which the group said would cost taxpayers more than $350 million over the next 20 years.

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Adjustable Pension Plan Gaining Interest in Certain Business Sectors


A defined benefit pension plan design that reduces employer risk while assuring participants a guaranteed minimum lifetime benefit is attracting increased interest from certain business sectors. Known as an adjustable pension plan, the design derives its name from the fact that the benefit earned by participants is based not just on employees' compensation and years of service, but also on returns on investment of plan assets like in defined contribution plans.

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IRS Gives Green Light to Adjustable/Variable Pension Plan


The IRS has issued a private letter ruling approving a pension designed with Adjustable Pension Plan (APP) features. The ruling resolves an uncertainty with respect to a particular design formula that can be used to customize the APP (AKA Variable Defined Benefit, or VDB Plan) to meet the needs of plan sponsors.

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Cheiron's APP Featured in GAO Report


A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies Cheiron's variable DB plan, also known as the "adjustable pension plan" (APP) as an option "for a flexible DB plan to address risks facing multiemployer plans." The NCCMP's "Target Benefit" model was also cited. In very broad terms, an APP plan is developed on a conservative (e.g., 5%) rate of return and mortality assumption. Benefits are adjusted to account for varying economic conditions. The more conservative nature of the plan results in more stable financial costs for the employers. The pooled risks (mortality and investments) provide better benefits than a defined contribution plan would for the participants.

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Cheiron Credited in Retirement Security Report


Creative pension design ideas from Cheiron were cited in a comprehensive plan by the Retirement Security Review Commission of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans. The report, titled "Solutions, Not Bailouts," represents the efforts of contributors from labor and employer organizations and technical experts, all seeking to preserve reliable lifetime income for retirees. Cheiron's presentation of the Variable Defined Benefit Plan (also known as an Adjustable Pension Plan, or APP) was highlighted on pages 19 and 27 of the report.

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Cheiron, EFI Actuaries Combine to Form Larger Innovative Consulting Firm


On Jan. 1, 2013 Cheiron Inc. combined forces with EFI Actuaries to expand and build upon its leadership role in the actuarial consulting field.

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NY Times Guild Members Accept APP Plan


Journalists, advertising professionals and other New York Times employees, represented by the Newspaper Guild of New York Local 31003 CWA, have just embraced the adjustable pension plan (APP) concept by ratifying, by an eight-to-one margin, a new four-year labor contract featuring the innovative design pioneered by Cheiron. Cheiron provided strategic advice to the New York Times Company and the Newspaper Guild as it analyzed how to maintain its pension program in a manner that preserved essential protections for workers, while assisting the company to manage its liabilities with greater predictability and flexibility.

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Cheiron's Hudson Testifies on Pension Crisis


Cheiron Consulting Actuary Richard Hudson joined a panel of pension scholars and experts Sept. 20 to testify at a U.S. Senate hearing titled "pension modernization for a 21st Century workforce."

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Large employer, union embrace Adjustable Pension Plan model


In a move that might signal an important trend in pension design, a major labor union and employer have agreed to adopt an Adjustable Pension Plan (APP) effective January 1.

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Cheiron’s Kalwarski tells trustees variable defined benefit plan may address some funding challenges of traditional DB plans


The variable defined benefit plan (VDB) design is beginning to catch the attention of traditional career-average DB plan sponsors who are looking for alternatives to terminating their existing plans, Cheiron CEO Gene M. Kalwarski, FSA, EA, MAAA, told trustees attending the IFEBP's 57th Annual Employee Benefits Conference in New Orleans recently.

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Senior IRS official James Holland joins Cheiron


Longtime IRS veteran James E. Holland, Jr., ASA, EA, FCA, MAAA, joined Cheiron, Inc. on January 4 as the firm's Chief Research Actuary. Holland, who had been Assistant Director, Employee Plans Rulings and Agreements since February 2008, left the Service after a distinguished 36-year career.

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Cheiron joins pension policy, government, labor leaders in retirement security forum


"It's time to think of new ways to encourage employers to provide pensions for their workers, and new types of pensions that do not put the full investment responsibility on workers," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told a recent gathering of retirement thought leaders in Washington. Cheiron President Gene Kalwarski, another speaker at the gathering sponsored by "Retirement USA," presented an outline for an alternative pension design, the Variable Defined Benefit Plan.

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