This post, first published on Oct. 3, 2022, has been updated to reflect the latest investment return results.
Government pension plans depend on annual investment results to help generate the funding needed to pay for the retirement benefits that have been promised to teachers, public safety, and other public workers. Since investment returns contribute to long-term public pension solvency trends, interested parties keep a close eye on the annual return results of these pension funds to see how they are performing compared to their own assumed rates of return.
Reason Foundation’s list of public pension investment return results includes all major state pension plans that have reported their 2022 fiscal year results as of this writing.
The distribution of 2022 investment returns shows a significant range of results across all of the state pension plans reporting results at this time.
The Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System reported a -14.5% return for its 2022 fiscal year, which is the lowest return rate among the public pension plans reporting results.
The New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) and the New York Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) reported 9.5% returns—the highest return rate in the nation for fiscal 2022, although their results are mostly attributed to plans’ 2022 fiscal year ending in March 2022, before the largest market losses in the 2022 calendar year.
Overall, the median investment return result for state pension systems in 2022 is -5.2%, which is far below the median long-term assumed rate of return for 2022 of 7% for the plans included in this list. With return results for the 2022 fiscal year so far below pension plans’ return assumptions, most state pension plans will see growth in their unfunded liabilities and a worsening of their reported funding levels.
With each public pension plan achieving different investment returns, the funding impact will also be different for each pension system.
'Estimated Investment Gain/(Loss)' is calculated by taking the plan's FY 2020-21 Market Value of Assets and multiplying it by the difference between '2022 Return' and 'Assumed Rate of Return.' Estimated values are meant to approximate total amounts of investment loss that plans would fully & directly recognize this year due to FY 2021-22 return deviating from the assumption (i.e., not accounting for the smoothing mechanism). Investment returns shown are Net of Fees, if not stated otherwise. ‘Deviation from Assumed Rate of Return’ shows the difference between ‘2022 Return’ and ‘Assumed Rate of Return.' Positive returns are highlighted in light blue, and negative in orange. The distribution of the 2022 investment returns chart is based on the `normalized` probability density function, with all probabilities (i.e., all points on a line graph) summing up to 100%.
Stay in Touch with Our Pension Experts
Reason Foundation’s Pension Integrity Project has helped policymakers in states like Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Montana implement substantive pension reforms. Our monthly newsletter highlights the latest actuarial analysis and policy insights from our team.