November 6, 2008

The Incredible, Shrinking Pension Fund

Monique Chartier

In an October 11 (Saturday, ahem) ProJo article by Katherine Gregg,

... the treasurer’s office acknowledged that the state’s pension fund has lost 25 percent of its value since the beginning of the year, dropping from $8.4 billion to $6.3 billion.

LTE writer George Lavoie points out, however, that Katherine Gregg used the wrong benchmark in evaluating state pension fund losses.

A deeper analysis would reveal that the S&P 500 is not a proper benchmark. The S&P is an index of stock values. The state pension fund consists of a mixture of stocks, bonds and cash, not only disqualifying the S&P as a fair comparison but further revealing that the state's stock portfolio and general treasurer are performing even worse.

* * *

Using a typical investment ratio of 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds, other instruments and cash, and assuming a positive return of 4 percent on the non-stock portion of the portfolio; simple math will show that the stock portion of the state pension is actually down 45 percent, or $2.3 billion.

Even in the worst of economic times, no one would set a goal to "lose less than the S&P 500." People hire money managers to protect their wealth. State Treasurer Frank Caprio is not protecting our wealth; he is destroying it. More disturbing is the lack of outrage from public-sector employees (state legislators included), whose pension fund has lost over one third of its value.

Mr. Lavoie's suggestion that the General Treasurer be recalled is a little over the top. But certainly in view of their vested interest, the parties to whom he refers may wish to ask more questions and demonstrate more concern than they have to date.

... oh, and what about the rest of us who may be asked to make up this shortfall? Yes, now that that minor distraction is behind us, perhaps it's time.

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Which means that the reciprocal state's unfunded pension liability (formerly about $5 billion) has now swelled by about 25%!

Rhode Island is a bit like the submarine Thresher - taking on water at an increasing rate, accelerating its descent down to crush depth.

Meanwhile Bob Walsh and crew are in the appropriately named conning tower, yelling "full speed ahead!"

Posted by: Tom W at November 6, 2008 4:40 PM

kinda funny.. havent heard a peep out of caprio in the last month.

cant even get a straight answer out of his office the status of the state pension plan.

Posted by: johnpaycheck at November 6, 2008 7:37 PM

Catch Newsmakers this weekend. Caprio will be making a lame attempt at rebutting Laffey.

Posted by: Ralph at November 6, 2008 11:06 PM
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