Steady pension funding improvements since financial crisis
Public pension plan contributions rose in post-recession years on average in dollar terms, but the average plan failed to meet its required contributions until only recently. While the percentage of required contributions has crept up to near 100%, the cumulative impact of the shortfall could add to what is already a down 2020. The combined impact of falling interest rates and asset values will surely leave plans' funded status in worse shape than they have seen since the global financial crisis.
Last year's figures could adjust lower as only 115 of the typical 185-plus plans have reported annual data so far.
Plans had been able to supplement shortfalls through annual investment gains. Annual plans gained about 9% annually between 2010 and 2019, despite dipping to near 6% over the past five years, and there hasn't been a negative period since 2009. That trend could come to an end this year as equity markets have fallen 20% so far.
The percentage of plans not meeting their required contributions has been improving since 2011 when almost half of U.S. plans were contributing below their minimums.