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TRS asking for smallish state funding increase

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From TRS

For the second straight year, the long-term funded ratio of Teachers’ Retirement System has improved, reaching 43.8% at the end of fiscal year 2022. That is a positive increase of 1.3% over the previous year’s funded status.

The TRS Board of Trustees gave preliminary approval to a $6.04 billion state government contribution for the System in FY 2024. That is a 2.5% increase over the state’s $5.89 billion contribution for the current fiscal year.

The increase in the funded ratio came last year despite very volatile investment markets and uncertainty in the world economy. Most large institutional investors like TRS lost money during FY 2022. TRS recorded an investment return rate of -1.17%. Nonetheless, the TRS rate compared favorably to the median return of -7.6% by large pension systems according to RVK, Inc., of Portland, Oregon, the TRS general investment consultant.

“The System’s improved funded ratio is a bright spot in a challenging investment year,” said Stan Rupnik, executive director and chief investment officer of TRS. “The TRS funded ratio improved this year primarily because of consistently positive investment returns over the last five years combined with steady state funding that for two years exceeded the statutory minimum.

“The System’s five-year annualized TRS investment return exceeds 7%, and those gains outweigh the small negative return in FY 2022,” he added. “Increased funding from state contributions and strong investment returns slows the growth of the unfunded liability and over the last two years has slightly improved the funded ratio.”

The total unfunded liability of TRS at the end of FY 2022 was $80.6 billion; a 0.85% increase over the $79.9 billion unfunded liability recorded in FY 2021, according to the System’s annual actuarial valuation, compiled by Segal Consultants, of Chicago.

In the last decade, the TRS funded ratio averaged 40.7 percent. Projections by Segal show slow but steady improvements in the funded ratio between FY 2022 and FY 2045, when state law requires TRS to have a funded ratio of 90 percent. The funded ratio at the end of FY 2021 was 42.5%. During the last two years, the TRS funded ratio has improved by 3.3%.

The funded ratio reflects the difference in the amount of money TRS has in assets against the amount of money the System needs to immediately pay all members the full amounts of benefits they are owed for the rest of time. Altogether, the System’s total long-term liability at the end of FY 2022 was $143.5 billion, a 3.3 percent increase over the previous year.

While the funded ratio is important as an official measure of the System’s long-term fiscal health, it is not a reflection of the System’s current financial ability to pay benefits. In any given year, TRS only is obligated under state law to pay out the amount of money owed annually to eligible retired members and other beneficiaries. During FY 2022, paid benefits totaled $7.6 billion. TRS was more than able to pay all benefits for the year on time and in full. In fact, for 83 years TRS has paid all benefits in full and on time.

* That 2.5 percent increase works out to $150 million. These are fiscal year over fiscal year state funding increases for TRS via COGFA

    2012-13 +12.3% (+$296.9 mil)
    2013-14 +27.2% (+$735.1 mil)
    2014-15 -1.8% (-$60.7 mil)
    2015-16 +10.8% (+$364.8 mil)
    2016-17 +6.5% (+$243.9 mil)
    2017-18 +2.7% (+$108.7 mil)
    2018-19 +9.1% (+$370.9 mil)
    2019-20 +7.8% (+$347.5 mil)
    2020-21 +6.8% (+$327.1 mil)

Many thanks to Isabel for running those numbers.

       

26 Comments
  1. - Sue - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 2:41 pm:

    Obviously any good news is a positive and the fact that TRS will base its funding request based on its June 30 valuation will benefit this year’s appropriation request. However- if someone were to ask Stan what the funded status was as of September 30- I would guess it wouldn’t look as favorable given the huge decline in equity, fixed income and most likely PE and RE valuations. The volatility in the market since June 30 wasn’t good for any defined benefit Plan. Perhaps someone if they are curious might as for the funded status as of September 30


  2. - Michelle Flaherty - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 2:54 pm:

    I’m just here so Sue isn’t alone.


  3. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 2:56 pm:

    =However-=. Always with the “yeah, but” stuff.

    42.5% funded. Never missed a payment.

    For reference, 1970 was just over 40% funded. Very stable and slowly improving.


  4. - New Day - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 2:57 pm:

    It’s stunning that this was a positive year given how those of us in the broader markets have gotten killed. I assumed it was going to kill the funding ratios as well. Good to see the folks of TRS are on the ball.


  5. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:08 pm:

    === =However-=. Always with the “yeah, but” stuff.

    42.5% funded. Never missed a payment.

    For reference, 1970 was just over 40% funded. Very stable and slowly improving.===

    This is the correct take.

    Isabel, thanks for crunching numbers, I was told there would be no math, you are Aces.

    Welp, we’ll see how fiscally smart others can be, are able to be, to meet the ask… or not


  6. - Sue - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:13 pm:

    Don’t fully understand the criticsm. All I pointed out is the simple fact that using a particular date as opposed to averaging over a 12 month period for purposes of the annual appropriation is kind of silly.


  7. - Jocko - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:20 pm:

    ==the System’s total long-term liability at the end of FY 2022 was $143.5 billion==

    Not bad for a state that generates over a trillion dollars annually.


  8. - City Zen - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:23 pm:

    ==For reference, 1970 was just over 40% funded.==

    What percentage of the 1970 budget went to maintain that 40% funding level versus today?


  9. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:25 pm:

    ===What percentage of the 1970 budget went to maintain that 40% funding level versus today? ===

    Hey, genius, maybe stop to realize what you just wrote? The decades upon decades of underfunding and outright skipping pension payments caught up to us.


  10. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:25 pm:

    ===What percentage===

    Any payments to retirees missed?

    Try again.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:28 pm:

    ===The decades upon decades of underfunding and outright skipping pension payments caught up to us.===

    It’s like pointing at a hole today and ignoring the digging done last night?

    The question now is will this ask be met? Why is it or isn’t it a good fiscal ask?


  12. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:30 pm:

    =What percentage of the 1970 budget went to maintain that 40% funding level versus today?=

    Could have been a zillion percent, but it wasn’t. And Rich kindly pointed out your self own.

    You see, the problem we face 52 years later is that the state (politicians) were not paying. So not only were they not maintaining, they were making the problem worse for people today.

    See how that worked? What percentage should they have been paying is a better question. Had that been handled properly, there would be no legacy debt payment today.


  13. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:32 pm:

    =It’s like pointing at a hole today and ignoring the digging done last night?=

    Lol, that is a terrific analogy (banned punctuation). I hope you don’t mind if I use that going forward.


  14. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:33 pm:

    ===you don’t mind===

    Nope. Have at it.

    :)


  15. - City Zen - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:55 pm:

    ==The decades upon decades of underfunding and outright skipping pension payments caught up to us.==

    Bragging the funding percentage is the same as it was 50 years ago while completely ignoring the much larger percentage of the budget it’s currently consuming is not the correct analysis of the current funding percentage.


  16. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 3:57 pm:

    ===while completely ignoring the much larger percentage of the budget it’s currently consuming===

    Such a genius. The budgetary angle is the point of this entire post. I know it’s difficult sometimes, but try to slow down and read.


  17. - Random Observer - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 4:00 pm:

    The better than expected news is due in no small part to TRS (and the other retirement systems) thankfully using a 5-year smoothed value for the actuarial value of assets instead of just the market value of assets. So 20% of last years bigger than normal investment return is recognized this year (and will be there for the next 3 years) which helps offset the poor investment return experienced this year.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 4:00 pm:

    - City Zen -

    Then you applaud the ask and the more funding?

    Why or why not?

    I don’t think you even know anymore why you are angry or upset, unless you are of the belief all pensions should be eliminated or whatever you’ve stated you feel about unions, pensions…


  19. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 4:08 pm:

    ==is not the correct analysis of the current funding percentage==

    By all mean enlighten us with your wisdom


  20. - Sue - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 4:14 pm:

    Focusing on Rich’s point “ effect on the budget” - the big disappointment with the Ramp is that the underlying premise was that pushing bigger payments into the future would be offset by the growth in Illinois Revenue- the reason now that pension payments are taking a much bigger percentage of the budget is the growth projections failed to materialize. Population loss and just outright stagnation are the reasons the ramp isn’t working as anticipated by as those who recommended the program to Edgar. If anyone doubts that- speak to the former Governor. No one anticipated pensions consuming such a large percentage of total Revenues when the ramp was established - bottom line is that the State contributions will be made but those payments are absolutely crowding out other State needs


  21. - ANON - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 5:18 pm:

    what has always troubled me is that the GA doesn’t count K-12 pension contributions as education funding–it absolutely is–directly to the benefit of the classroom teacher–so the GA pours money into K-12 for teacher salaries and another $6b for teacher pensions–need to slow down on throwing 1!4b at k-12 year in and year out without any accountability and no reduction in property taxes. So many unmet needs in social services–K-12 needs to take a back seat for a year or two.


  22. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 6:14 pm:

    ===Many thanks to Isabel for running those numbers.===

    Yes! When it comes to finances, the numbers come first!


  23. - ESR - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 7:51 pm:

    What the recent less than market losses unfortunately illustrates is the catastrophic policy of ultraconservative (aka crappy returns) investing over the last couple decades by the pension systems. They were forced to do so because they were so underfunded that short term market downturns would threaten immediate cash flow. It has had an unexpected fortuitous short term result lately of stemming investment losses, but will continue to cripple long term investment returns after markets finally recover from the trillions of covid welfare sloshing around.


  24. - Bad Goya Vitch - Tuesday, Oct 25, 22 @ 10:11 pm:

    Rich, do calm down. You’re kinda rude to the budget boy.


  25. - thisjustinagain - Wednesday, Oct 26, 22 @ 10:18 am:

    $80.6 Billion unfunded liabilities. That’s…that’s a lot of liabilities, despite TRS’s payment record to retirees.


  26. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Oct 26, 22 @ 10:21 am:

    ===that’s a lot of liabilities, despite TRS’s payment record to retirees.===

    That’s the point.

    As the liabilities as a whole are as such, they are not owed in one sum, “tomorrow”

    It’s news if payments to the retirees are missed.

    It’s better news that the addressing of liabilities are being addressed.


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