Which States Have the Most Underfunded Pensions?

Pension funding is a hot topic in the political world. Retirees who have worked their entire lives end up retiring with very little to their name or have a very difficult time accessing their funds. These problems vary from state to state, with underfunded pensions accounting for the worst.

Many states promise a certain amount for public employee retirement benefits, but don’t deliver in the end. According to this post from State Budget Solutions, last year’s unfunded pensions reached an all-time high of $4.7 trillion. This funding gap is affecting every state, but for some it hits harder than others.

Let’s take a look at some of states with the most underfunded pensions, according to Bloomberg.com.

1. Illinois

The most poorly funded state in America, Illinois only funds 43.4 percent of its pensions. It has an unfunded liability of $82.9 billion, with 20.7 percent going unfunded for each person.

2. Connecticut

The funded ratio for Connecticut is 55 percent with more than $20 billion in unfunded liability. The state owes each person an average of $56,000, which makes up 18.6 percent of an individual’s pension.

3. Kentucky

With a funding ratio at 53.4 percent, Kentucky is at nearly the top of the list for poorly funded pensions. The average unfunded liability for each person was more than $16,000.

4. Kansas

With only 56.4 percent of the states’ individual pensions funded, Kansas is a very difficult place to retire. They owe $9.2 billion in unfunded liability and fail to pay an average of 10 percent per person.

5. Alaska

The funding ratio for Alaska is only at 54.7 percent with more than $23 billion in unfunded liability and 27 percent of an individual’s pension going unfunded.

6. New Hampshire

At a ratio for 57.4 percent funded, New Hampshire has an unfunded liability of over $4 billion and an average of $3,000 not delivered to an individual’s pension fund.

7. Mississippi

With unfunded liability reaching nearly $50 billion and per-person unfunded liability at more than $16,000, Mississippi has a funded ratio of just 57.6 percent, a record low for the state.

8. Louisiana

The population of Louisiana is 4.65 million, but only 58.1 percent of those people receive their full pensions. The unfunded liability is nearly $75 billion with per-person unfunded liability at over $16,000.

9. Hawaii

40 percent of pensions go underfunded in Hawaii, with nearly $40 billion in unfunded liability and a whopping average of $20,000 in per-person unfunded liability.

10. Massachusetts

Finally, Massachusetts’s funding has something to be desired with 60.8 percent of its inhabitants receiving their full pensions. Their unfunded liability totals about $75 billion.

What’s Being Done About It?

This major lack of funding is one of the biggest negative results of the 2008 recession, and the outlook isn’t good. Many states’ fiscal health continue to suffer as the economy struggles to regain its footing. Because of the lack of capital to back current pension plans, there isn’t much that can be done to improve the current state of pension funding, but there are several actions being taken by the most underfunded states.

Many states are working to discount liabilities based on the equivalent of a bond yield from the U.S. Treasury. Using fair market valuation, the discount rate should help to balance out public pension payments. The payments will still come up short, but if the theory behind this method is correct, it should gradually bring the funded ratio to a more reasonable rate.

Since these states don’t have the capital or policies in place to boost the funded ratio to what it should be, many public employees are choosing private pensions. Apart from being infinitely more reliable than state pensions, this type of retirement account has a multitude of benefits. You can continue to build on your pension and even retire at a younger age. Private pensions are provided through banks, societies, investment and insurance companies, and several general retailers outside the government, which means more options and reliability in pension funding for you.

The Outlook

Unfortunately, though steps are being taken across the country to improve pension funding, the outlook is grim at best. In fact, according to CNBC, 85 percent of public pensions across the United States could fail in the next 30 years. Based on the current speculation for state investments, each state will come up short by about five percent per year, meaning that they won’t be able to catch up, and even more pension funds will fail in the years to come.

Public pension funding is under constant review as legislatures and representatives struggle to come up with a solution for this ever-growing problem. So, the question is this: What will you do about your pension?

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