STUMP » Articles » Around the Pension Blogosphere » 29 December 2016, 03:25

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Around the Pension Blogosphere  

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29 December 2016, 03:25

Thought I’d point out some pension-related blogs/sites I often go to, though in most of these cases I’ve linked these sites repeatedly.

ACTUARIES, REPRESENT

The actuary I’ve been reading the longest re: public pensions has been John Bury, currently at Burypension blog.

Bury has been covering more than just public pensions (though obviously he covers that), but really digging into the multiemployer plans that are hurting in a bad way. Bury is a pension actuary, so he has experience & knowledge many other pension bloggers (including me) don’t have.

Here is Bury’s recent series on MEPs:

Finally, Bury has been keeping track of the MEPs who have applied to have current benefits cut to prevent short-term insolvency — in his recent post on this, he notes one of the plans had their proposal accepted for next steps, unlike four other plans.

Having looked at the amended application of this fifth plan myself, I think part of the reason it was accepted is that the short-ish-term asset return assumption was a lot more conservative than the other applications… among other reasons.

The next actuary, who has been more active in his writing recently, is Theodore Konshak who has been putting up his writing on scribd. He is a retired pension actuary, like Bury.

I’m working through Konshak’s pieces on South Carolina pensions currently, and his analyses are giving me idea to try out on the larger Public Pension Database data set.

Konshak talks both about the actuarial valuation principles and approaches, and he also notes aspects of [b]actual[/b] human behavior compared to the ideal theory (Such as in this item, titled Sam the Sheepdog and its predecessor The IRS Small Plan Audit Program: Pension Actuaries in the United States Became Seriously and Irreversibly Addicted to Brown Nosing During the Decade of the 1990s). As I didn’t come to the actuarial profession til 2003, and as I’m not a pension actuary, having some of this background is very helpful because many of the things we’re seeing today were path-dependent. It’s nice to see the path.

I will likely circle back to South Carolina specifically (I wrote about their use of alternative asset classes back in 2014), because I have a personal connection to those funds. About half my extended family lives/works in South Carolina. I have three generations of teachers/other state workers in SC, with my 87-year-old grandma being the most likely to not need to worry about her state benefits, but my cousins who are a few years younger than me needing to worry.

NON-ACTUARIAL BLOGGERS

Obviously, I’m going to give actuaries pride of place, but here are some others I often read.

PensionTsunami with Jack Dean – I mainly check here to see if I’ve missed anything specifically. I have multiple news feeds and I’m subscribed to many of the blogs below, so I look at my daily emails from each of the sites.

Wirepoints from Mark Glennon is mainly on Illinois & Chicago finance issues, though sometimes he captures items on general pension issues.

Capitol Fax and Rich Miller – for tuning into Illinois politics. I don’t agree with Miller’s politics (surprise!), but it’s good for checking on what’s active.

Similarly, I read the blog of retired Chicago teacher Fred Klonsky, who I share basically no politics with. If I read only those I agreed with, I would learn a lot less.

Ed Mendel at Calpensions gives me the technical level of detail in reporting that’s helpful in keeping track of what is happening in California pensions.

Mike Shedlock at MishTalk gives me economic environment info in general, especially with a global view. Sometimes Mish blogs on pensions, but his coverage tends to be more broadly economic.

Leo Kolivakis at Pension Pulse – Leo has a lot of experience/perspective from how Canada does thing, but he touches on global pension issues more generally. He tends to pull from multiple news sources within posts.

Some people email me directly with interesting pension stories (marypat.campbell@gmail.com is the one I check most often) or you can tweet it at me if you want to remain semi-anonymous (@meepbobeep).

DATA SOURCES

I’ve mentioned some of these before, but my primary data source is the Public Plans Database from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. In addition to using their data set, I also often check out their research reports.

The Empire Center of NY has a variety of data sets on NY state costs.

There are similar databases for California at Transparent California and Illinois from the Better Government Association.

Pension 360 has a database of pension staff salaries, among other things.

Open the Books has national data, but I have found it more difficult to work with than other databases.

Data.gov provides an aggregation of federal data sources, and American Factfinder provides a portal for Census data.

Kaggle has started being a data publishing platform, with loads of analyses — these are all sorts of things, including U.S. County Level mortality experience (YES!)

I’ve got plenty more to work on!


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