BUZ LIVINGSTON: Advice not heard from your advisor or pension woes still around

Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 10:27 AM.

Friends, Sowalers, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to praise pensions not to bury them. Despite the barbs cast upon them, nonetheless they are noble.  Most people will find a lifetime income stream insulated a bit from equity market fluctuations beneficial, lest ye forget 2002 and 2008. 

Politicians metaphorically describe the Florida Retirement System as a ticking time bomb. Regardless if their depiction is valid, local municipal pensions pose a greater danger.

Local pensions fall directly on local property owners while millions of Floridians and the visiting hordes mitigate potential FRS pension shortfalls.

In the case of local pension woes, one can argue the tourist industry contributes directly to looming pension deficits. The South Walton Fire District’s pension, currently chalking up a 68 percent funded rate, covers first responders as lifeguards, EMTs and firefighters. A vacation destination requires sufficient first responders in order to manage the seasonal tourist surge.  

We want/need a highly trained professional cadre to answer 911 calls; providing them a pension is not a bridge too far as long as it is actuarially sound. While high-risk employees deserve a pension, ignoring fiscal realities leaves the cupboard bare for their replacements. Have a little union solidarity, guys. 

Given the deteriorating fiscal status of Florida’s municipal pensions either pay me now or pay me later. Neither taxpayers nor future employees will be able to fund promised benefits. When asked to explain the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho’s remarkable success (87 percent funding level), CIO Robert Maynard responded they shun over-promising benefits and under-funding contributions. 

I’m not calling for the end of pensions, but changes are inevitable. 

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