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State Plans See Improving Funded Status but Miss Expected Returns in the Short-Run

Wilshire Associates reported earlier in the year that state pension plan’s average funded status increased to an estimated 80% at the end of 2014, as asset growth exceeded liability changes. However, as a number of state plans closed their books on the fiscal year at the end of June, their pension fund returns are well below their assumed long-term target range, typically 7.0-7.5%. For example, CalSTRS, the California State Teacher’s Retirement System, had an estimated 4.8% rate of return, and CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, had an estimated return of 2.4% for the fiscal year. The Ohio School Employees Retirement System returned 3.9%. The Maryland State Retirement and Pension System earned about 2.7%, falling short of its target level, 7.65% (which separately is being reduced to 7.55% in two years). This situation has prompted plans to consider lowering their assumed long-term rate of return. For example, CalPERS indicated it will reduced their target from 7.5% possibly as low as 6.5% over time, and correspondingly alter their asset allocation in favor of less risky assets with lower volatility.