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Pension Funds

Funding for largest public pension plans inches up in quarter

The aggregate funded status of the 100 largest public pension funds rose to 73% as of June 30, up from 72% as of March 31, said Milliman's most recent quarterly public pension funding study released Thursday.

The funding increase was driven by aggregate investment returns of 3.06% for the quarter, which outpaced a 0.83% increase in liabilities to $4.74 trillion.

Overall, assets rose 2.16% to $3.46 trillion for the quarter.

Of the 100 plans analyzed, 19 had funding ratios above 90%, 60 between 60% and 90%, and 21 below 60%. As of March 31, 15 plans had funding ratios above 90%, 64 between 60% and 90%, and 21 below 60%.

As of Dec. 31, 10 plans had funding ratios above 90%, 65 between 60% and 90%, and 25 below 60%.

"During the first half of 2017, the number of plans funded at 90% or above has almost doubled," said Rebecca A. Sielman, principal and consulting actuary at Milliman and author of the study, in a news release. "But while strong market returns have helped plans across the board this spring, the lowest funded plans simply do not have enough dollars in the market for these favorable conditions to boost their funded ratios appreciably. In the absence of more contributions from plan sponsors, these poorly funded plans might find themselves in a position where benefit reforms are necessary in order to maintain their ability to pay benefits."