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How to Prevent The Pension Fund Crisis What We Should Be Asking

Updated on April 20, 2015

In all the news about Wisconsin's pension funds, one important item is missing. It relates directly to the cost of the Wisconsin pension fund. It relates directly to recent mortgage collapse and loan defaults. What are the Wisconsin pension funds investing in? What mortgage back securities are they purchasing? Where are the underlying assets of their fixed income portfolios located?

In Illinois, the local governments invest in fixed income securities such as Treasuries and GNMAs. Additionally, there are state run pension funds such as IMRF that invests in fixed income securities.

For the State of Wisconsin, all local government pension funds are held only at the state level. This leaves the State of Wisconsin with a great deal more control and responsibility.

If Wisconsin wishes to be the leader in this new public finance world then it should not just look at the benefits but also look at the investments.

What am I talking about exactly?

As my readers will recall we walked through a couple of websites that now provide a visual map of the mortgage foreclosures. These maps showcase the location and specific neighborhoods affected by high defaults.

Pension funds invest in these mortgage backed securities usually under the guidelines of the GNMA and FNMA. These investment pools are located in geographic regions of the United States.

Pension funds such as the Wisconsin pension funds have the ability to choose where they invest in their money.

Investing in California can be more risky and can return a higher profit.

Investing in the Midwest prior to 2008 was a relatively safe investment.

Investing locally in your own state and having policy guidelines that directs the pension boards to track what geographic region they are investing in is a prudent measure.

Reporting to the public where these investments are located is an act of transparency that can only help the pension returns of the State of Wisconsin.

Transparency of Fees

Fees paid take away from profits. If fees are higher, returns are lower. Watching the fees truly paid is the job of the investment board and the stakeholders - the tax payers

Pension Fund Expenses and ROI

Table of fees paid and ROI for various pension funds throughout the United States.
Table of fees paid and ROI for various pension funds throughout the United States. | Source

Sample Heat Map

Heat Map Sample - This One Details Alcohol Related Deaths
Heat Map Sample - This One Details Alcohol Related Deaths | Source

When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.
Winston Churchill

Annual Audit - Heat Map for Locations of GNMAs and FNMAs

Within the annual audit of every public pension fund is an actuarial study. Within this review, I challenge there should be a heat map of the geographic location of the investments or the location of the underlying mortgages for the fixed income/mortgage back portfolio of every pension fund across the country. Not just Wisconsin but California, Illinois and all 50 states in our union.

Guidelines to invest in geographic regions will affect the supply and demand of this securities. Yes, if California invests primarily in their own mortgages and they are the least stable in the market place their pension portfolio could be the most volatile.

However, this volatility could be noted by financial experts and tracked and discussed in a more open manner that may serve to thwart unstable market activity.

Actuarial Report Needs Heat Map of Location of Investments

Tax payers and governors alike need to know where they are investing their long-term assets. A simple heat map of where the investments are located is key to understanding a pension fund's portfolio.

A higher return is great but the real question should be what is the risk I am taking on to support this high return? Is this risk worth the return?

Is the board of directors given the information to make this decision.

Is the governor given this information?

Sadly no.

The actuarial reports are not mandating.

This is an important risk management tool that could be readily implemented.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
John F. Kennedy

Residential Mortgages - Largest Investment

We have essentially lost the community financial institution here in America. We will always have pension funds and those pension funds will always hold investment - no matter how small that portfolio may be. The question is how do we manage those investments? How do we fully disclose the true value of those investments? A heat map of the location of the largest investments by geographic region is needed to help better manage the largest driving force in our American marketplace - our residential mortgages.

© 2011 American_Choices


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    • American_Choices profile image

      American_Choices 5 years ago from USA

      There is a crisis now and not returning accountability to the locals is how this crisis was started. The foundation for accountability lies in returning investments to the local stakeholders.

      When a stakeholder resides 50 miles away we can don't end up with results. We need results.

      The crisis started because we did not have accountability. The crisis will kill us unless we return to owners living locally, working among us, working with us and working for us.

    • johnginzburg profile image

      John Ginzburg 5 years ago from Tel aviv and New York

      Let's broaden our perspectives...

      In the developed world, governments today are facing grim prospects for the future. With rising longevity and reduced birth rates in European Union countries, a large scale crisis is looming just behind the corner. Governments and societies will have to revolutionize their conceptions of pension and retirement plans

    • fetty profile image

      fetty 6 years ago from South Jersey

      In New Jersey, about 15 years ago a republican female govenor invested the teachers pensions in the stock market; sometime during the early 80's . The fund incurred a huge 'market correction'. Then for the next fifteen years , govenors from both parties allowed townships to not pay their matching amount, required by law to match the employee contributions. The debt grew bigger and bigger. One govenor paid 1 billion $$ into the fund to help correct the problem. He promptly lost the next election. He did not raise townships taxes or make massive cuts in social and healthcare programs. We currently have a govenor who is protecting the millionaires, has cut the police force in Camden, the second most dangerous city in the nation by 50% and has blamed the teachers calling them greedy and lazy. He has found funds for traffic cameras and wants to take over Atlantic City and one failing casino to help insure the prosperity of the state. His list goes on and on. He has cut every social program but always manages to find money for the strangest projects. His party wants him to run for the presidency. I pray he does because he will have to leave New Jersey. He speaks in sound bites, never does his homework and has lost nearly $ 450 million dollars in the Race to the Top funds for our schools that was offered by Obama. To show those teachers how tough he was , last minute he pulled required pages out of the 1,000 page document. He paid over $100,000 to a firm to file the paper work to make sure it was acceptable. He fired his education commissioner and passed the blame onto Obama. No kidding. Great hub - we are in a world of trouble here, The working poor vanishing middle class.