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State and Local Pensions: What Now? Hardcover – September 12, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press; 1 edition (September 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815724128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815724124
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"State and local pensions are much in the news, but the current discussion largely ignores why some plans are in financial trouble while others are not. Drawing on extensive research, Munnell cogently explores the diversity of past actions, current circumstances and needs, and opportunities for reform. This book is the essential starting place for thinking about and reforming pensions."—Peter Diamond, Institute Professor and professor of economics, emeritus, MIT, and 2010 Nobel Laureate



"Munnell offers a thoughtful examination of the challenges facing state and local governments as they strive to provide retirement security for their employees. Her work represents a giant leap forward by establishing a comprehensive framework for leaders looking to tackle these critical issues."—Gina Raimondo, general treasurer, State of Rhode Island



"Pensions for state and local employees generate ferocious debates among both the general public and pension experts, with serious repercussions for public sector pay and government budgets. Munnell explores this controversy with clarity and fairness, providing a critical resource for citizens who wish to understand public pensions and the policymakers who must manage them."—Andrew Biggs, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute



"Why does this book stand out? It's because Munnell has relied upon, and truthfully portrayed facts, to produce light, not heat. Moreover, uniquely, she places blame where it belongs without rancor and provides reasonably achievable solutions."—Ian Lanoff, attorney and public pension expert, Groom Law Group, Chartered



"This book is the most comprehensive assessment of public pensions yet compiled. Munnell evenhandedly challenges stereotypes and ideologues in describing the nuanced and consequential details of retirement benefits for employees of state and local government. Her book is indispensable for anyone with an interest in the nation's public retirement policy."—Keith Brainard, research director, National Association of State Retirement Administrators

About the Author

Alicia H. Munnell is the Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences, Carroll School of Management, and director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. She has served as assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy and as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. She was also cofounder and first president of the National Academy of Social Insurance. Munnell has written several books, including Brookings titles Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge, with Steven Sass (2008), and Coming Up Short: The Challenge of 401(k) Plans, with Annika Sundén (2004).

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By jr1 on December 18, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Covers the issues facing public pensions today in depth. Fact based approach and non political. Covers funding models, pros and cons of pensions and the accuracy of common conceptions about pensions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Howard A. Frank on March 19, 2014
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This is one of the most important subjects in current public policy debate. Professor Munell's work is thorough and thought-provoking. She is correct in asserting that a handful of very poorly defined benefit plans have given all a bad name. That said, she does see the potential use of hybrid plans that combine defined contribution and defined benefit components. She is correct in asserting that switching to DC plans does not take jurisdictions off the hook for prior liabilities. But she understates the political and substantive draw of ending the balance sheet risk that future generations won't face through such a transition. In a similar vein, I agree with her that reduced benefits may make the public sector less appealing to younger workers. But the question may be whether the millennial generation will tolerate 6-10 year vesting periods attendant to the DB plans.

Munnell asks if the public groundswell to cut public pension is in part a race to the bottom in which all Americans are seeing an increasingly bleak retirement. That is a fair question to ask. I don't think she provides an answer. She does raise a broader question about the need for a third tier of retirement savings built around a portable DB model. Senator Harkin introduced legislation that would establish such a plan. It won't see the light of day, but it suggests Munnell is putting the current public pension mess into broader relief.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lt Wayne on May 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written text on the current state of public pensions. This book dispels common myths about the solvency of pension funds across the country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Denslow on September 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An authoritative, comprehensive, insightful book for those studying the economic of public finance aspects of state and local pensions. Munnell covers many issues. I'll comment on one, the appropriate discount rate. She states, correctly, that virtually all pension economists say that since pension obligations are secure, the discount rate to use for calculating the present value of liabilities should be a safe rate, such as treasuries or perhaps AAA corporate bonds. Accountants, and every public pension plan I know of, use the expected return on assets. The modal value is 8%. Munnell suggests a compromise: use the safe rate for reporting funding, use the expected return for the annual required contribution. All three--pension economists, accountants, and Munnell are wrong, however. The actual obligation is (chiefly) to an intermediary, the future taxpayer. If utility-maximizers, future taxpayers are willing to bear some risk (more a tax-distortion risk than a portfolio risk, Lucas & Zeldes AER--who for some reason test empirically a model they maximize over one variable instead of the appropriate two). With back-of-the-envelope calculations, I propose the correct discount rate is around 7% currently, depending on the curvature of tax distortions.
Why not the Munnell compromise? Who's going to pay attention to it if it doesn't affect the ARC--just another number to ignore. That, and the true obligation is mainly to the future taxpayer--shared slightly with current recipients and just a little more with current employees. All those who write on the discount rate, including Munnell, state in passing that the future taxpayer is at risk, and then ignore that fact. Rauh & Novy-Marx, for example.
(I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to express a view on one issue, a fraction of the book.)
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State and Local Pensions: What Now?
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