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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sleep Through The Static

Lots of chatter is still around about the possibility of an assumed rate change. As a form of reassurance - certainly not intended to lull into a false sense of security - the study presented by Mercer (Board Actuary) to the PERS Board this past November is a worthwhile read. It is scary on a number of levels as it discusses the system's funding status relative to retirees and immediately future retires, income to outgo projections, and asset mix. The only nominal reassurance can be found in the report's statement that employer rates are set through June 30, 2011. While this isn't a guarantee for anyone, it does suggest that any changes in the base assumptions of the system: assumed interest rate, salary growth rate, mortality factors, investment mix, etc - are set for another 2+ years. The May 29, 2009 PERB meeting is set to discuss the framework for the next actuarial experience study. This study may commence soon, but nothing is set in concrete until calendar 2009 is over. It will cover the period between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. These experience studies usually provide the framework for setting employer rates, valuing the worth of the whole system, establishing any changes to actuarial tables, and a host of other issues that go into the construction of a retirement system. I take from the November 2008 study that the actuary is well aware of the bad experience in 2008 (and most certainly so far in 2009), but that this isn't relevant to the system right now, only for the next system valuation.

I will endeavor to stay on top of this issue. I have heard NOTHING from PERS yet on the issue of assumed rates, except for the indication that it could be part of the discussion at the May 29, 2009 meeting. I plan to be at that meeting and I will continue to keep my ears to the ground. In the meantime, I suggest that members near or at retirement age continue to monitor this situation closely, but to not take precipitous and irreversible course unless you are not comfortable with the suspense. If you are NOT ready to retire, for heaven's sake, don't make any decision rashly based only on rumor, speculation, and absent any fact. You will regret such a decision if you make it in an uninformed manner.

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