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Should public retirement plans be fully funded?


Most state and local retirement plans strive for full funding, at least by actuarial standards. Funding measured at market values fluctuates and often falls short. In a model where most taxpayers hold debt and face intermediation costs, returns on pension assets are less than taxpayers’ costs of borrowing. Hence, zero pension funding is optimal. Also, unfunded pension promises are properly discounted at a rate strictly greater than the government's borrowing rate. Funding can still be in taxpayers’ interests if legal enforcement problems make unfunded pensions risky for employees, but except in special cases, the optimal funding ratio is less than 100%. null

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Journal of Pension Economics and Finance.

Volume (Year): 10 (2011)
Issue (Month): 02 (April)
Pages: 195-219

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jpenef:v:10:y:2011:i:02:p:195-219_00
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  1. Dennis Epple & Katherine Schipper, 1981. "Municipal pension funding: A theory and some evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 141-178, January.
  2. Baxter, M. & Jermann, U.J., 1993. "The International Diversification Puzzle is Worse than you Think," RCER Working Papers 350, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  3. Jeffrey R. Brown & David W. Wilcox, 2009. "Discounting State and Local Pension Liabilities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 538-42, May.
  4. R. Mehra & E. Prescott, 2010. "The equity premium: a puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1401, David K. Levine.
  5. repec:fth:calaec:4-98 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Henning Bohn, 1999. "Should the Social Security Trust Fund Hold Equities," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 666-697, July.
  7. Robert J. Barro & José F. Ursúa, 2009. "Stock-Market Crashes and Depressions," NBER Working Papers 14760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Friedberg, Leora, 2011. "Labor market aspects of state and local retirement plans: a review of evidence and a blueprint for future research," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 337-361, April.
  9. repec:pal:imfstp:v:42:y:1995:i:1:p:1-31 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Jeremy I. Bulow, 1982. "What are Corporate Pension Liabilities?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(3), pages 435-452.
  11. Robert Novy-Marx & Joshua D. Rauh, 2009. "The Liabilities and Risks of State-Sponsored Pension Plans," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 191-210, Fall.
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