STUMP » Articles » 80 Percent Funding Hall of Shame: We Get Repeats » 16 February 2015, 08:06

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

80 Percent Funding Hall of Shame: We Get Repeats  


16 February 2015, 08:06

One of the reasons I keep a spreadsheet on all my 80 Percent Funding Hall of Shame stories is that I have a horrid memory, and don’t want to repeat myself.

The other reason is to catch when somebody repeats themselves.

Congrats, Hillary Russ, you are our first repeat appearance in the Hall of Shame!

Under the previous actuarial methods, those plans were funded at 49.1 percent and 51.5 percent, a distressed level far off the minimum 80 percent generally considered healthy.

Her first entry is here:

Under new pension accounting standards, issued by the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the New Jersey system’s overall funded level stands at 44 percent for fiscal 2014, compared to the 63 percent previously determined by standard actuarial methods. Eighty percent or more is generally considered healthy.

Sounds familiar, eh? Does she just copy/paste?

If you check out my spreadsheet, you will see I note how I tried to reply to the 80% funding myth.

In Hillary Russ’s case, I couldn’t do anything.

Comments on the stories are not allowed (I don’t have a problem with that — after all, I don’t allow comments here). But there’s also no way I can contact the author directly (again, I’m okay with that — in my day job we have someone whose job is to reply to press inquiries). I can’t even reach an editor. There’s no way I can correct what was written other than to blog here and hope Russ or a Reuters editor sees it.

Someone else tried to help me find a way to contact Russ, but I determined I would have to pay actual money to use that particular route. Sorry, the only thing I want to pay for my hobby is time.

Anyway, the point is that Russ is going to keep making this error, unless she’s the type to have a google alert on her own name (Hey Hillary Russ of Reuters! I’m talking about you!) and then come here and see what I wrote… and then take it seriously. That’s quite the chain of events, but ya never know.

[I have a google alert on my own name, btw, but I know it does not catch every mention. And sometimes it’s not even me. Hey, Presbyterian minister in South Carolina with my name!]

The issue is that one will never be corrected if one does not give others a way to correct. Yes, I know one can end up with a lot of irrelevant spam, but in my case it has paid off. A while back, one person emailed me (I’m for something I wrote, and I discussed the issue and made a clarification on the original post and in a new post.

I often get ideas for new posts when people email me. People send me links, and many of my 80% Hall of Shame entries come from emailed submissions and not my own searches. Keep them coming in!

I would rather know I’m wrong about something so I can correct the error. Now, if it’s a matter of difference of opinion, I’m fine with knowing that, too, but I will not necessarily blog about that.

But if I’m wrong about a fact, I want to know. Please email me.

I like putting things down correctly, in terms of fact. Thing is, this is my hobby. Not my job.

It is Hillary Russ’s job to be correct, and not be so sloppy with a they say… kind of reference.

Anyway, Hillary Russ, if you see this, feel free to email me at — or just look at the American Academy of Actuaries brief on the 80% funding myth.

The health of defined-benefit pension plans is a key issue to the tens of millions of Ameri- cans who are receiving or expecting to collect pension benefits. Some have said that the level of funding – specifically an 80% funded level – should be used as a general bench- mark to determine whether pension plans are financially healthy. In reality, however, no single level of funding distinguishes a healthy plan from an unhealthy plan. In fact, plans should have as their objective accumulating assets equal to 100% of relevant pension obligations.

That’s all I would’ve emailed you, Hillary Russ, or your editor. I’ve emailed several other reporters with that link and quote.

My goal with this is to STOP THISFACTOID” from being repeated and spread.

That’s why I find my ability to email the perpetrators or comment on the story is very important to me. I am not expecting these people to find my blog posts on what they wrote, so I need a way to contact them.

That’s partly why I’m jealous of Giraffedata of wikipedia — he has his own misuse he wants to correct, and he can go into Wiki articles directly and edit them.

I’m not asking for the ability to edit these reporters’ pieces; I just want to be able to tell them of the problem with their “factoid”. So they will stop using it.

NOTE: Yes, I know Hillary Russ is on twitter. I prefer email or comments on stories, because twitter is not amenable to actual conversations. I could @ reference her, but I am not interested in doing a twitter back and forth.

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