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Linking Benefits to Investment Performance in US Public Pension Systems

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  • Robert Novy-Marx
  • Joshua D. Rauh

Abstract

This paper calculates the effect that introducing risk-sharing during either retirement or the working life would have on public sector pension liabilities. We begin by considering the introduction of a variable annuity for the retirement phase, modeled on the Wisconsin Retirement System, in which positive benefit adjustments are granted only if asset returns surpass 5% but benefits cannot fall below their initial levels. This change would reduce unfunded accrued liabilities by around 25%, and would lower the annual contribution increases required to target full funding in 30 years by 11%. If there is no minimum benefit guarantee, the impact of introducing variable annuities is substantially larger: the unfunded liability would fall by over half and required annual contribution increases would fall by 44%. Alternative measures that have similar effects on costs include increasing employee contributions by 10.3% of pay while keeping benefits unchanged; or giving employees a collective DC plan with an employer contribution of 10% of pay for future service. We discuss these results in the context of models of lifecycle portfolio choice, which suggest that employees should generally prefer to take risk earlier in their lives rather than later.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Novy-Marx & Joshua D. Rauh, 2012. "Linking Benefits to Investment Performance in US Public Pension Systems," NBER Working Papers 18491, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18491
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Nellie Liang & Scott Weisbenner, 2007. "Individual Account Investment Options and Portfolio Choice: Behavioral Lessons from 401(k) Plans," NBER Chapters,in: Public Policy and Retirement, Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar (TAPES), pages 1992-2013 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Amy B. Monahan, 2010. "Public Pension Plan Reform: The Legal Framework," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 5(4), pages 617-646, October.
    3. Horneff, Wolfram J. & Maurer, Raimond H. & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Stamos, Michael Z., 2010. "Variable payout annuities and dynamic portfolio choice in retirement," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(02), pages 163-183, April.
    4. Robert Novy‐Marx & Joshua Rauh, 2011. "Public Pension Promises: How Big Are They and What Are They Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(4), pages 1211-1249, August.
    5. Clark, Robert L. & Schieber, Sylvester J., 2004. "Adopting cash balance pension plans: implications and issues," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 271-295, November.
    6. Novy-Marx, Robert & Rauh, Joshua D., 2011. "Policy options for state pension systems and their impact on plan liabilities," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 173-194, April.
    7. Luis M. Viceira, 2001. "Optimal Portfolio Choice for Long-Horizon Investors with Nontradable Labor Income," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(2), pages 433-470, April.
    8. Ponds, E.H.M. & van Riel, B., 2009. "Sharing risk : The Netherlands' new approach to pensions," Other publications TiSEM dffdb2a2-5a3c-45e1-b166-c, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    9. Tang, Ning & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Mottola, Gary R. & Utkus, Stephen P., 2010. "The efficiency of sponsor and participant portfolio choices in 401(k) plans," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1073-1085, December.
    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. Ponds, Eduard H. M. & Riel, Bart Van, 2009. "Sharing risk: the Netherlands' new approach to pensions," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 91-105, January.
    12. Coronado, Julia Lynn & Copeland, Philip C., 2004. "Cash balance pension plan conversions and the new economy," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 297-314, November.
    13. Jeffrey R. Brown & David W. Wilcox, 2009. "Discounting State and Local Pension Liabilities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 538-542, May.
    14. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 1997. "Market Frictions, Savings Behavior, And Portfolio Choice," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 76-101, January.
    15. Barr, Nicholas & Diamond, Peter, 2008. "Reforming Pensions: Principles and Policy Choices," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195311303.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marcel Lever & Ilja Boelaars & Ryanne Cox & Roel Mehlkopf, 2015. "The allocation of financial risks during the life cycle in individual and collective DC pension contracts," CPB Discussion Paper 317, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General
    • H74 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Borrowing

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