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  #791  
Old 12-31-2018, 06:56 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
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https://www.forbes.com/sites/teresag.../#5fa3eb1619dd

Quote:
Incompetent Federal Policies Hurt Retirees And Older Workers

Teresa Ghilarducci
Teresa Ghilarducci
Contributor
Retirement
I am an economics professor focusing on retirement security and jobs.

Spoiler:
The stock market is in bear territory the night before Christmas, dropping 19.7% in 3 months from a peak during the day on September 20. And many blame the President’s slipshod economic management.

Financial markets matter more than ever. Twenty-four million American workers are approaching retirement age, and many will have to retire before their time when the recession hits. Just over a third have no financial assets, so for once not having a 401(k) or IRA may be a relief. But 15.6 million American workers, age 55-64, have real skin in the game – they had on average $92,000 in retirement assets in 2017. If it were all in stocks each older American lost an average of over $18,000 this quarter.


Folks are panicking as their retirement income and prospects for work look grimmer than they have in 9 years. Account balances shrink at the same time job prospects shrivel and older workers are often FIFO – first in and first out – and more vulnerable to recessions. Only near retirees relying on a defined benefit pension plan and Social Security don’t have to follow the S&P500 -- their income is guaranteed.

Other assets, such as bonds, don’t promise much relief – the financial markets and real estate may slump for a while. However, market volatility is not a culprit; market corrections are expected and even necessary. Erratic government policy is the culprit. The clumsy government shutdown and awkward, ill-advised and seeming impulsive statements from Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin should not be expected and and they are unecessary.

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This week the executive branch hit the wallet hard. First, the government shut down as President Trump insisted Congress fund the Mexican border wall and turned down a budget deal. This caused federal budget authorization to expire, shutting down non-essential government services (the White House Christmas tree closed, and now is open only with private money). The shutdown is forcing many federal employees—including border patrol agents—to work without pay. As of Christmas Eve no further negotiations are planned.

Second, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin caused a minor panic that helped drive the S&P 500 index down by 2.7% today. He probably didn't mean to. Apparently he actually was trying to calm the markets. Mnuchin announced he spoke to the CEOs of the six largest banks and reassured us the banks had adequate liquidity. But since no one had been worrying about liquidity, markets either assumed that the Treasury had some disturbing inside information or that Mnuchin was acting under orders from President Trump. The motive might have been to support Trump's constant tweeting against the Fed and its chairman Jerome Powell (who Trump appointed). It is as if the Treasury, reassuring us we are secure from white rabbit attacks, caused more fear of white rabbits than ever before.

Tim Duy, the economist behind the Fed Watch blog, agrees with Trump’s discomfort with the Fed’s interest rate hikes. But he worries about the President and his impulsive policy declarations, writing, "My guess is that Mnuchin was under pressure from Trump to 'do something' and this half-baked attempt to calm markets is the result.” Duy added "it is widely believed that Mnuchin’s actions were so poorly conceived that they can’t be taken seriously. But they were so poorly conceived that they imply a worrisome lack of competence for economic policymaking as a whole, and that creates uncertainty that undermines investor confidence."

This week the executive branch’s incompetence has caused million of workers to uneccessarily lose thousands of dollars.


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  #792  
Old 01-02-2019, 10:56 AM
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https://burypensions.wordpress.com/2...-for-pensions/

Quote:
What Stock Drop Means for Pensions
Spoiler:
The 6% drop in the Dow in 2018 (from 24,834 to 23,327) could have been worse, according to CNBC, if not for pensions funds:
.


.
Even with the pension-fueled comeback last week, losses in 2018 will have repercussions since plans, in chasing returns, have increasingly moved into stock-related investments and were expecting to make, not lose, 6% in value annually.

What I expect:


1. PBGC premium spike (more than usual) driving more single employer plans to act (either put in a lot of money so plans can terminate or go bankrupt and let PBGC pay).
2. Another ‘funding relief’ law (ie. MAP-21; HATFA) attached to some budget bill that further weakens PPA minimum funding requirements.
3. Multiemployer Plan bailout (and not only because of union pressure on the Democrats they bought) as the inanity of investing your way out of insolvency becomes clearer.
4. Nothing significant for public plans as valuations are done years in advance and with ever more creative ways of defining the ‘actuarial value’ of assets 2018 might even be made to look like an up year for public plans.

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  #793  
Old 01-02-2019, 12:10 PM
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  #794  
Old 01-03-2019, 06:09 AM
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ASSETS

https://www.institutionalinvestor.co...ear-Since-2008

Quote:
Pensions Among the Victims of
Stocks’ Worst Year Since 2008
The average U.S. corporate pension plan lost 4.7 percent last year after stocks tanked in the fourth quarter, according to Willis Towers Watson.


Spoiler:
Steep year-end declines in U.S. stocks left America’s largest public companies deeper in the hole for their pension obligations, according to analysis by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson.

Pension funding levels for Fortune 1000 companies dipped to an estimated 84 percent after a volatile fourth quarter culminated in sharp losses in December. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, Nasdaq Composite Index, and Dow Jones Industrial Average all ended the year in the red, marking the stock market’s worst year since 2008.

Among the corporate pensions analyzed by Willis Towers Watson, investment returns averaged a negative 4.7 percent. Losses were recorded in large- and small-cap domestic equities as well as in long government and corporate bonds typically used in corporate pensions’ liability-driven investing strategies.

Overall, pension assets declined by $150 billion to an estimated $1.33 trillion.

“The steep decline in the equities market during the fourth quarter, particularly in December, negated what had been a very positive year,” senior WTW consultant Jennifer DeMeo said in a statement.

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Before the fourth quarter, U.S. corporate pensions were making strides toward closing their funding gaps. Companies had contributed $47 billion to their pension plans as many sought to take advantage of new tax benefits, and their total pension obligations fell to $1.59 trillion from $1.74 trillion, Willis Towers Watson said.

[II Deep Dive: Corporate Pensions Look to Boost Plan Contributions Ahead of Deadline]

At the end of September, the aggregate funded status was 90 percent, up from 85 percent at the end of 2017.

Royce Kosoff, a senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, said plan sponsors are likely to look toward new investment approaches, lump-sum buyouts, and annuity purchases as they continue to focus on risk management.

“The volatility in the fourth quarter, and especially in December, which was one of the worst months since the Great Recession, demonstrates how quickly conditions change,” he said.



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  #795  
Old 01-05-2019, 06:59 PM
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https://deadline.com/2019/01/disable...an-1202529363/

Quote:
Disabled Stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman Wins Major Appeals Court Ruling In Suit Against SAG Pension Plan

Spoiler:
Disabled stuntwoman Leslie Hoffman has won a major legal battle in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has reversed a lower court’s ruling and ordered a trial of her lawsuit that claimed that the SAG Pension Plan wrongfully terminated her occupational disability pension.

RelatedSAG Records Dispute Claim That Stuntwoman Worked While Receiving Disability Pay
In a ruling handed down today, the appellate court found that US District Court Judge Manuel Real had “erred” in granting the pension plan’s motion for summary judgment in 2016, reversed his decision, and remanded her case for trial. It’s the second time she’s gotten a favorable ruling from the appeals court since she first filed suit in 2010.

Read the court papers here.

The appeals court today also issued a stern rebuke of the SAG Pension Plan, which, after a slipshod investigation, determined that she’d worked and held herself out for work while collecting SAG disability benefits – and then took away her disability pension and ordered her to repay $123,827 in benefits she’d received over a 13-year period, plus another $8,457 in interest on those payments.


Hoffman’s case has been bouncing around in the courts for years. But it turns out that the Plan’s trustees and attorneys knew all along that she never worked under SAG’s jurisdiction while disabled. In fact, the Plan’s own records, obtained by Deadline, show that she has had no SAG earnings at all, except residuals, since 2001. Her tax records show the same thing. The only “work” she performed since then was as an unpaid adviser on a Star Trek fan video in 2014 – for which she even paid her own expenses.


In its ruling today, the appeals court found that “Although the Plans repeatedly requested that Hoffman provide all of her tax records to the board of trustees, the Plans later claimed that they only reviewed a ‘summary’ of these records, and retroactively denied Hoffman’s benefits in part on the basis that Hoffman was holding herself out to be available to work.”

“In contrast,” the court found, “Hoffman provided voluminous tax records to the Plans to show she had not been paid for work since her disability began. The Plans acknowledged receiving these, but did not include them in the administrative record, suggesting that the Plans did not review them.”

“Similarly, the Plans claimed they did not record Hoffman’s hearing on appeal and denied Hoffman’s request to provide any such recordings. However, the Plans later filed a motion for attorneys’ fees for 3.8 hours for drafting memorandum regarding duty to disclose recording at trustees’ meetings.”

The court also found that “The Plans relied on a report from the Plans’ new medical director, who reviewed the record and determined that Hoffman was not disabled. That report was inadvertently omitted from the disclosure of the administrative record, though it was later supplemented at an unspecified date. Yet, there is nothing in the record showing that Hoffman received that report prior to the decision.”

Hoffman, once one of Hollywood’s top stuntwomen — she was the first stuntwoman ever elected to the SAG and AFTRA boards of directors — has twice been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries that she says were the result of one too many concussions sustained during her many years of stunt work. She hasn’t been able to work since 2002.


In 2003, she was admitted for psychiatric treatment on two occasions and was ultimately diagnosed with severe major depression. In 2004, the Social Security Administration awarded Hoffman disability benefits due to her depression. As a result, she became eligible for and eventually obtained a SAG disability pension. Five years later, she submitted an application to convert her disability pension to an ‘occupational disability pension’ in order to receive the additional benefit of health coverage.

And that’s when the SAG Pension Plan began its shoddy investigation of her case, and ordered her to pay back $123,827, plus interest – which prompted Hoffman to sue in the first place.

“The record here reveals numerous factual disputes not addressed by the
District Court in either the summary judgment order or the court’s findings of fact,” the appellate court ruled. “On remand, the District Court must address these outstanding factual questions, which will bear upon the degree of skepticism with which the district judge reviews the Plans’ decision to deny Hoffman’s claim for benefits.”


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  #796  
Old 01-16-2019, 05:36 PM
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PG&E

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business...s-13533794.php
Quote:
PG&E tells retirees not to worry about pensions even in bankruptcy

Spoiler:
PG&E Corp. sought to reassure its retirees on Monday that there will be no changes to their pension or medical benefits as a result of its planned Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

“For our retirees, we do not expect any changes to the Company’s tax-qualified pension plan or to health or life insurance benefits,” it said on its website Monday.

PG&E has a defined benefit plan for union and nonunion workers that has various payout scenarios. Employees who joined after 2013 have what’s known as a cash balance plan; those who joined earlier had a choice of switching to the cash balance formula for future accruals or keeping with the original one. The plan is well funded, experts said.

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Even if it weren’t, private-sector defined benefit plans — the old-fashioned type that promise a certain income in retirement — are guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. This is a federal agency funded by insurance premiums paid by companies that sponsor defined benefit plans and investment returns.

Sometimes when companies go bankrupt with an underfunded pension plan, the plan is terminated and taken over by the agency, which continues to pay benefits out of the fund’s assets and whatever it can recover from the company in bankruptcy court. If that’s not enough to pay all benefits employees have earned up until the termination, PBGC will make up the rest, up to a limit.

For a single-employer plan that failed in 2019, the limit for a 65-year-old is $67,295 per year for a single-life annuity. It’s higher for older retirees and lower for younger ones. It’s also lower if the person chooses an annuity that also covers a spouse.

When a plan is terminated, most employees “are probably going to get all or most of their benefits, even if a plan is poorly funded,” said Norman Stein, a law professor at Drexel University.

Not all companies that file for bankruptcy terminate their plans, and some struggling companies terminate their plans without going bankrupt.

There are various mind-boggling ways companies measure how well funded their pension plan is based on future benefit projections. They report different numbers in different filings. Depending on which numbers you use, PG&E’s plan is well funded or very well funded, pension experts say.

It is so well funded that it wasn’t required to put any money into the plan for at least the past three years, but contributed around $330 million per year anyway, according to annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company said Monday it “currently intends to continue to make regular pension contributions to that plan as normal.”

Utilities often have well-funded plans because the cost can be passed on to ratepayers, but the PG&E pension plan “is unusually well funded,” said Terrence Deneen, who was the PBGC’s chief insurance program officer until he retired in 2011. “I see absolutely no reason why the plan should terminate.”

In its annual funding statement sent to employees for the year that started Jan. 1, 2017, the plan said its net assets equaled 107 percent of its liabilities, or 87.2 percent if you use a more conservative interest-rate assumption.

“If you are at least 80 to 85 percent, you are unlikely to be terminated,” Deneen said.

For the year ended 2017, the plan had $16.65 billion in assets and $16.8 billion in accumulated benefit obligations, according to a different analysis in PG&E’s annual SEC report.

PG&E also provides health insurance benefits to retirees.

“It changes when they become Medicare eligible at age 65; they get a supplement,” said Tom Dalzell, business manager of IBEW Local 1245, which represents about 12,000 PG&E employees.

Employee medical benefits are not covered by the PBGC, but the utility had $2.4 billion set aside at the end of 2017 to pay about $1.9 billion in projected retiree medical and life insurance benefits.

Dalzell said PG&E’s pension fund “is very strong, as is their retiree medical fund.”

Some of PG&E’s top executives are eligible for retirement benefits that are not part of its so-called tax qualified plan and not protected by the PBGC.

PG&E also emphasized that its 401(k) plan for employees would not be affected by a Chapter 11 filing.

“The assets in your 401(k) plan are not the Company’s — and are protected by U.S. federal law,” it said. “Retirees would be able to continue to make qualified withdrawals under the usual guidelines.

“Any change in the value of your 401(k) is due, as always, to fluctuations in the value of the securities you have selected to own.”


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