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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UC pension in serious trouble!

Anonymously contributed:

While we in LANS/LLNS are grumbling about the shortfall of funding in TCP-1 be aware that the UC retirement system is in serious trouble.

The following excerpt:

With the university facing rising costs for pension and retiree health benefits, Yudof formed the task force in February 2009 and charged it with developing recommendations for competitive pension and retiree health benefits that would be financially sustainable over the long term. The university already has a $21 billion unfunded liability for its retiree health and pension benefits. Within five years, that unfunded liability is projected to grow to $40 billion — twice the current size of the entire UC budget."


Anonymous said...

Consider the following excerpts before panicking:

"The task force also recommends excluding employees who are nearing retirement from the changes in eligibility for retiree health care. Roughly 40 percent of current faculty and staff would be "grandfathered" in under the recommendations."

"None of the proposed changes will alter the vested pension benefits that faculty and staff have already accrued. Those benefits are guaranteed under state law. In addition, most other proposed changes would be subject to collective bargaining for union-represented employees."

No cause for panic here, folks, unless you are that type.

Anonymous said...

According to this article, UCRP will be taking 5% of salary and UC will be kicking in 10% by the summer of 2012.

However, since the LANL TCP1 pension was short-changed by UC at the time of creation by about 40% ("Thanks, Hewitt!", Mikey A.), salary contributions at LANL have already begun (~3%), and lab projects will be hit with a new 9% "pension tax" starting Oct 1st due to an estimated $74 million shortfall this fiscal year.

With an additional $75 million in LANS TCP1 shortfall forecast by summer 2011, followed by an additional $200 million shortfall by summer 2012 (these figures as per Mike Anastasio), you can expect to see large increases in TCP1 salary contributions and project "pension taxes" at LANL by the summer of 2012. I would guess something on the order of 8% of salary and perhaps a 25% "pension tax" on projects.

Here is the question that people at LANL need to be thinking about: Will the LANS TCP1 pension continue when the cost of maintaining it will be eating away at the very core of the lab's business? I doubt it.

LANS will likely freeze-out the TCP1 pensions (with NNSA's eager consent) within the next few years. You can already begin to see the hand-writing on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Read the stories in the news. Pensions all over America are falling into serious trouble. It's not just UCRP and the NNSA labs.

In many ways, what you see now is the outfall of Ben Bernanke's crazy policy of zero-rate returns on fixed investments. The Federal Reserve has decided to "save" the Wall Street Banks by "starving" Main Street retired folks on their 401k's and pensions (both of which typical utilize fixed investments).

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, this part of that UC memo is interesting....

"Mindful that employees also find it difficult to re-direct a growing portion of earnings to the UCRP, task force members have proposed establishing a new, less-costly pension tier for employees who join UC after 2013.

Current UC employees could have a one-time option to join that new pension tier."

Anonymous said...

From the article:

"None of the proposed changes will alter the vested pension benefits that faculty and staff have already accrued. Those benefits are guaranteed under state law."

Unfortunately the state of California is broke (who saw that coming)? Does that mean they could shift the burden to DOE? Either way, at least there is some sort of guarantee for those vested. Sadly, it will be difficult for future generations to have decent retirement benefits.

Anonymous said...

There is no shortfall in the LLNS TCP1 Pension. As many (those that are obvious in this plan and receive the annual information on it) have pointed out on this site, the plan is well overfunded.

Anonymous said...

The top post has nothing to do with LLNS or LANS TCP1. The folks who are impacted by those pension plans are now reaping the harvest of their misplaced trust (LANS much more so than LLNS, at least for now.)

Anonymous said...

This article below was interesting. I didn't know that employers are getting government money to help them pay for their retiree's medical coverage. And yet... LANS and LLNS are raising the fees on retiree medical coverage(?) !!!!....

** Health law's retiree perk won't last long (CBS) **

Commentary: Retirees younger than 65 will get short-term help with health costs

BOSTON (MarketWatch) -- If you are among the estimated 1.3 million retirees too young to qualify for Medicare but fortunate enough to have employer-sponsored health care coverage, count your blessings. The next two years could bring a bit of a windfall.

As part of the new health-reform law, some 2,000 employers and unions that provide health insurance to their retirees younger than age 65 will receive $5 billion to dole out to their former workers to keep health-care costs -- insurance premiums, deductibles, and the like-- in check until the private health-insurance exchanges open for business in 2014.

Unfortunately, the $5 billion fund will last no more than two years, said Paul Fronstin, director of the Employee Benefit Research Institute' s Health Research & Education Program. That means retirees who stand to benefit from the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) should set aside money now for what could be a spike in health expenses in 2012 and 2013.

Anonymous said...

Because of the severe under-funding brought about by LANS negligence (or willful malfeasance?), the LANS TCP1 pension will eventually either be frozen or go bankrupt... or, perhaps both!

Like everything LANS seems to touch, it turns rotten. But, not to worry, Mike Anastasio plans on pumping up his salary to $2 million per year and has the perk of executive pension insurance to protect him from any future losses.

Heckavajob, Mikey!

Anonymous said...

That CBS article had a link that showed which companies in New Mexico are being helped by the new health care law. Both LANL and SNL were listed as companies getting government cash supplements to help pay for retiree health insurance.

So, given that LANS is already getting extra money to help pay for retiree health costs, why the sudden need to radically jack up the costs these people must pay to continue their health insurance?

Where is all that extra money going? People need to start asking some serious questions of the LANS LLC management team.

Anonymous said...

Quote from LANL's "Open Enrollment 2011 Laboratory Retiree Guide Book":

"Rising costs for medical insurance and dramatic increases in participant usage of the Plan have contributed to the need for an increase in the premiums paid for medical coverage. In keeping with the NNSA-DOE directive to have non-Medicare-eligible retiree premium contributions aligned with those of active employees, non-Medicare retirees will experience an average premium increase of 30 percent starting January 1, 2011."

There is similar wording about consistency with costs to active employees in the Medicare retiree section. Those folks will begin contributing 20% of the total premium cost.

This follows a 10% *decrease* in non-Medicare retiree premiums that occurred this year with the shift from UCH to BC/BS.

So DOE thinks retirees can afford to spend as much on health care as active employees. The parity argument is garbage. I can see an argument based on retiree usage compared with active employees, but LANS wasn't willing to open that can of worms and used a specious "NNSA-DOE directive" instead.

Anonymous said...

"Where is all that extra money going? People need to start asking some serious questions of the LANS LLC management team." (12:12 pm)

Have you looked at the parking lot at LANL and seen some of the extremely expensive cars that the top management drive? High-end Porsche, top of the line BMWs, etc. Any more questions?

Anonymous said...

I've seen many people drive $50,000 or even $100,000 cars they couldn't afford. It's not an indication of excessive salary or corruption. It's just car envy. Typical among insecure males.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know if pension manager bonuses like the ones mentioned below for Calpers happened with TCP1 at LANS or LLNS?

Calpers Investment Managers Scored Big Pay As Portfolio Sank - AP News, Sept 21, 2010

The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the biggest U.S. public pension fund by assets, paid six-figure bonuses and substantial raises to top employees, the Associated Press reports Tuesday.

The news service's analysis of compensation practices at Calpers show that the payouts took place even as the fund's portfolio was losing $59 billion, nearly a quarter of its value; world stock prices were falling; and California's economy suffered its steepest decline in decades, forcing cuts to basic state services.

Anonymous said...

Serious question.

Does any reader know the details of how the TCP-1 pension liabilities are calculated for the purpose of comparing the present value of assets to liabilities?

The concern is whether the total liability as presented in recent LANL and LLNL reports is a only "current snapshot",that is the total of the benefits accrued to all beneficiaries as of that date, or does it include an estimate of all future liabilities, an "actuarial projection" of what the total liability is likely to be when the pool and their spouses age to retirement age, and then live on to the likely end of their lives.

A "currnet accrual" is likely to be very low, since most of the pool ages one year of service credit and in salary growth each year and lifespans continue to grow, whereas an actuarial projection including adjustments for these factors is likely to be closer to the present value of the total expected future value of liabilities.

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the new reduced retirement % and the increase in age before you can retire. I also included the task force report.

Talk about screwing the new hires, taking advantage of the recession and destroying all that was good about the UC retirement plan. They’ve done a superb job of this.

Want to bet it won’t be long before TCP-1 has to start contributions

Anonymous said...

Talk about screwing the new hires...

While folks are looking for the magic "they" that screwed people, admit that for the past twenty years there was not a chorus of UC employees anywhere arguing that contributions should be made even if the stock market was temporarily going like gangbusters. Don't act like victims when your "free lunch" just walked out the door.

Anonymous said...

11:54AM, I would take you up on that bet. At least for LLNL, TCP1 might not need to ask for contributions for quite a while. It's unfortunate UC doesn't look like the stable system it once was when we all had to make tough decisions.

Anonymous said...

Don't act like victims when your "free lunch" just walked out the door.

September 23, 2010 9:22 PM

Oh, so if you were a UC employee enjoying the stock market boom as reflected in your retirement fund, you should have objected and asked that UC retrench so as to reduce the advances to their retirement program members? Yeah, that makes sense. Let's apply biased hindsight to absolutely everything that goes wrong economically; that'll work.

Anonymous said...

Confused said:

"Don't act like victims when your "free lunch" just walked out the door..."

Dear confused. This is the LLNL blog.

At LLNL, the TCP-1 beneficiaries have not had withholding resumed. There are no more contributions to UCRS, because it is essentially closed. The contributions to those in the alternative 401K have not changed.

So to whom were you referring? Your comment does not seem to apply.

Anonymous said...

September 22, 2010 12:28 AM,

If you are in LLNS TCP1 you can download from the pension website (Hewitt) the 54 page IRS Form 5500 that LLNS submits in October of each year to the IRS. It describes how everything is calculated. I assume the LANS Hewitt site has similar information.

It is very detailed and from what I can see (I'm not an accountant) it uses extensive tables and weighted formulas to project future liabilities. Also lab termination rates by age and salary merit increase rates by years of service are included in the calculations.

The plan as of October 2009 was 209.62% of its funding target.

If you are not in TCP1 you might be able to get a copy from the HR office at your lab. Or ask someone who is in TCP1 to download and email to you.

An interesting note, the "weighted average retirement age" for LLNL is 60.11 years. Which is almost spot on the age when I plan to retire.

Anonymous said...

Another quote from the LANL "Open Enrollment 2011 Laboratory Retiree Guidebook":

"The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform): In March 2010 President Obama signed the (PPACA) into Federal law. While the PPACA has reformed various facets of health insurance, changing how group health care plan administrators and companies alike provide health insurance to their participants, as a stand-alone plan, LANL's Retiree Health and Welfare benefit plan is NOT SUBJECT to the laws of the PPACA. (emphasis in original) As such, retirees will not experience any plan changes AS A RESULT OF the new law. (emphasis added)"

So it appears everyone can stop speculating and/or scaremongering about the effects of the new law on non-Medicare retiree health care for LANL and LLNL retirees.

Anonymous said...

"NOT SUBJECT to the laws of the PPACA."

If true, then the only "minor" problem is the increase cost/copay or premium. Think LANS/LLNS will absorb the increase cost of medical? NOT ... just past it on to the employees/retirees.

Anonymous said...

Got to laugh. LLNS is to follow UC new retirement plan with a 10% contribution by 2014 and this all take affect in 2011 just three months from now. Have any of you guys ever listened to the lyrics of a song entitled Smiling Faces by the undisputed truth. Oh and a new retirement plan is coming your way. min age 65 with a max of 60% after 10% contributions. It's all good.

Greg Close said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

" LLNL and LANL employees should keep an eye on the annual PPA funding statements to get an accurate read on plan status.

- Greg Close

Greg, you are a stand-up guy who helped me working in HR at LANL during my run-up to retirement in 2007. I tend to take at face value anything you say on benefits. I too find it hard to believe that LANL didn't know this was coming, and as one who keeps my eye on the ball, I am not particularly surprised, just disappointed. I agree that the recent non-Medicare retiree premium increases are large but not unexpected, based on national trends. I wonder how much is not just "ignoring" claims increases, but just not caring about folks who retired before they unwillingly took control of them from UC but who they never saw as employees, and thus just don't care about.

Greg Close said...

I am re-phrasing my previous post, which I deleted...

LANL's 30% cost increase has as much to do with poor premium planning over the last few years as it does with any of the external pressures referenced in the public explanations. It is disingenuous, at best, to blame this all on health reform and "dramatic" increases in plan utilization.

While increased utilization might have been "dramatic," it was not necessarily unexpected. Some quarters (including the outside consultants hired to help with premium setting) warned of just such an eventuality, but were ignored and/or marginalized.

I can't really say they are "lying" about the underlying reasons for the increase, but they are certainly not being completely honest.

Anonymous said...

September 24, 2010 11:19 AM

How much did you loose on your bet? We are curious.

Anonymous said...

How much did you loose on your bet? We are curious.

October 8, 2010 7:13 AM

Please, if you are going to post on a blog centered on one of the premier US scientific laboratories, at least check your spelling. You make us all look stupid when you fail to write to 10-year-old standards. "Lose" not "loose." Jeez. Some people should not be allowed access to computers.


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