Pension/Health

Pension Fund Update

by Tom Klusman, Retiree-elected Trustee

Thank you for being interested in what’s going on with our pension fund.  Here is my brief, unvarnished update, hitting the high-points.

CURRENT STATUS

As of this writing (which is occurring the last week of February 2020) our pension fund’s total value stands at just over $5.6 billion.   To help you figure out if that is a good or a bad number, our most recent Actuary’s Annual Valuation, issued in June of 2019, calculated that we should have $6.4 billion in the fund in order to meet all of the current commitments to all of the current members of the fund.  That number is also reliant on achieving the assumptions he applied, along with all required contributions being received.  So, basic math leaves us about $800 million short of where we need to be.  Shoring this up should be Priority-One for all the parties involved.  Speaking for myself; I know that it is, and has been for me.  More on this issue later in this article.

On the outgoing side of the ledger; the ever-important and increasing monthly retiree payroll is now up to around $34 million per month.  As I’ve mentioned before, retiree payroll continues to creep up as more and more folks find out how wonderful retirement life is!  Then, another $2 million to $3 million per month goes out to pay the fund’s other expenses (staff salaries and benefits, infrastructure, manager fees, etc). 

On the incoming side, we essentially have only employee contributions, employer contributions, and Capital Market Gains (aka: investment returns) to fund our system.  So far YTD approx. $87 million has been received in employee & employer contributions.  Employees will keep contributing each pay period all year long, but the employers have pretty much paid in for the year, so this amount won’t go up a whole lot more.  You can see from these numbers that the whole year’s employer contributions cover about the first two months of the fund’s expenses.  The remaining 10 months of the year rely on the investment portfolio to perform well, or else expenses cut in to our reserves.  So far, 2020 is about flat on investment returns, following a bit of a January drop and a bit of a February inch-back.  2019 however was a very good year, as explained below.

2019 RE-CAP

For 2019, our fund’s return on our investment portfolio was 18.4%.  That is a fantastic year!   You may recall 2018 ended with about a 3% loss. Well, 2019 more than made up for that. An 18.4% return equated to a $904 million Capital Market Gain.  Just think what it would have been had we had the whole $6.4 billion we should have!   Also, since I mentioned last year how we fared better in 2018 in comparison to the State pension system, its only fair that I mention this year that they ended 2019 with a 19.9% return.  Wow. 

Outgoing dollars last year came to over $425 million.  $397 million of that was the twelve monthly retiree payrolls.  Again, meeting monthly retiree payroll is the sole reason for everything this fund is and does.  The remaining $28 million that went out last year was the ‘other expenses’ I mentioned above.  So, as you can see, our Capital Market Gain more than doubled our outlay; definitely 2019 was a great year.

OUR ANNUAL ACTUARIAL VALUATION

As the investment management side of the house was doing great in 2019, the information and valuation side wasn’t so much.  I am talking about that $800 million hole mentioned at the top of the article.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, our fund undergoes an Annual Actuarial Valuation every year.  The valuation is presented to the ERS Board in June and looks at and compares the assets and liabilities of our fund as of January 1 of the subject year.  This valuation process reveals to us our funded status, which in turn reveals what level of funding the plan sponsors (employers) need to contribute to meet their contractual obligations to their respective workforce / employees / us.   It’s not unlike an annual check-up at the doctor.

Well, if this was a check-up, the doctor is not happy.  We were told that our cholesterol is too high (i.e. our funding is too low) and we have a heart attack in the form of an approximately $100 million increased employer pension contribution coming due in just three years (2023).   But instead of recommending a diet, our doctor is recommending more food (food being funding).  

The actuary expressed the importance here in the ‘Key Takeaways’ section of the Valuation report (and yes, he applied the bold print):

Given the significant difference between the actuarially determined contributions and the stable contribution policy in this valuation, the City and participating agencies should give serious consideration to increasing contributions and planning for a major increase in the contribution rate when it is reset in 2023.

                                                                           CMERS Actuarial Valuation Report 2019 Executive Summary, p. 6

So as to apparently not understate the points, or maybe to decrease any ‘I told you so’ legal exposure to his firm, he also added:

Given the magnitude of the difference between the actuarially determined contributions and the stable contribution policy contributions, particularly on a market-based calculation, it would be prudent for the City and other participating agencies to start preparing now for higher contributions when the Stable Contribution Policy is reset for calendar year 2023.

CMERS Actuarial Valuation Report 2019 Executive Summary, p. 4

I would enjoy nothing more than to tell you that the employers (some of whom were at the June meeting and personally heard the Valuation, projections, recommendations, and warnings) took this to heart and dutifully leaped into action and availed themselves to this timely alert.   But sadly, this year none of the employers took heed of this warning and on their own volition put in any increased contributions.  Similarly, as far as “preparing”, that has been lukewarm at best as the City’s Employer Reserve Account stands right around a mere $33 million, up only $3 million from last year’s approx. $30 million balance.  Although this is disheartening, we will continue to watch these developments closely.  Our strong 2019 investment return should help mitigate some of this, but we need to continue to be engaged parties.  Your MRPA Board and I share very strong views on this and will continue to work collaboratively on your behalf.  


 

 

IRS warns some retirees at risk of tax penalty: What to know

The IRS has a new warning for retirees, and while it’s not about a scam it could end up costing older taxpayers more money than they expect to pay.
The agency issued a statement urging Americans to check the amount being withheld from retirement accounts and monthly pension or annuity checks, as soon as possible, in order to avoid a penalty next year.
Since the year is almost over, the IRS said those who discover they have been paying too little, might need to make a quarterly estimated or additional tax payment directly to the agency.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which enacted a slew of changes to the U.S. tax code, altered the way dues are calculated by the IRS. As such, some retirees are at risk of having too little withheld from regular payments.
Overall, more taxpayers than normal are at risk of having to pay the agency next April.
According to a simulation conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in August, which reviewed the revised federal tax withholding tables for 2018 implemented by the IRS and the Treasury Department, 21 percent of workers are at risk of having their taxes underwithheld – 3 million more than projections based on the old tax code.
Only 6 percent of taxpayers are expected to have wages accurately withheld, while 73 percent are likely to have their taxes overwithheld. The former is three percentage points less than a simulation conducted using the same withholding structure and the old tax code. Accurate withholding was assumed to be within $100 of what is truly owed.
This year, employers are using W-4 forms already on file to calculate withholding amounts, which has posed problems for taxpayers because the sweeping tax reform changes address everything from personal exemptions to the standard deduction. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act gave the Treasury Department authority to determine the withholding allowance structure because the old method was no longer suitable, and there was not enough time to issue a new W-4.
When asked in February about how many errors the Treasury has seen so far this year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to comment directly, instead urging taxpayers to use the IRS withholding calculator.
Employees can update their withholding amounts and the administration has encouraged them to use the tax calculator, available on the IRS website. Retirees can also use the tool, entering their pension like income from a job. They can also consult a financial adviser.
For Social Security tax payments, the IRS says individuals can ask the Social Security Administration to withhold taxes at specified rates ranging from 7 percent to 22 percent. Changes can be made online.
Changes to IRA withholding amounts can also typically be made online.
The Trump administration released a proposal for the new 1040 tax document, or the U.S. individual income tax return, in June. It is expected to release a new W-4 form later this year.


MEDICARE ENTITLEMENT AND ELIGIBILITY

(Click on the following link)   Medicare entitlement and elig-2018-w SSA updates kl


HOW TO EARN SOCIAL SECURITY CREDITS

(Click on the following link)     SSA How You Earn Credits ICN 467510 Rev 01.2018 (1)   

 


TAX DEDUCTION FOR RETIRED PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS

By President Wray Young

The Pension Protection Act, which was signed into law in August of 2006, allows retired public safety officers to exclude from income distributions made from their eligible retirement plan that are used to pay the premiums for health insurance.  This also includes the MetLife Dental & Vision plans negotiated for Milwaukee retiree firefighters and police.  The distribution must be made directly from the pension plan to the insurance provider.  You can exclude from income the smaller of the amount of the insurance premiums up to a maximum of $3,000 but the amount excluded cannot be used to claim a medical expense deduction. The MRPA is not qualified to give you tax advice so please direct any questions you might have regarding this benefit to your tax preparer or the IRS which, in turn, might refer you to IRS Publication 575.


 

Government Pension Offset & Windfall Elimination Provisions Will Reduce your Social Security Benefits – Wray Young

Kerry Leist, VP/Operations for NATIONAL BENEFIT CONSULTANTS, INC. passes along the following: There is important information regarding the Government Pension Offset & Windfall Elimination Provisions that will reduce your social security benefits and those of your surviving spouse if you should die before her/him.
Click to view:

 

Medicare Info

Kerry Leist, VP/Operations for NATIONAL BENEFIT CONSULTANTS, INC. passes along the following important information regarding Medicare eligibility. There are populations of protective services and a few others that lack 40 quarters. Some of those think they do not ‘qualify ‘ for Medicare. If entitlement is not at 40 credits it will costs those folks more for Medicare unless they qualify on a spouse’s record.  Credits can be obtained through qualified employment or on a self-employment basis. Click on the following link to see more information on Medicare costs and benefits

If you have any questions concerning the attached Medicare information, please contact Kerry Leist at 262-327-4370


 

Police Relief Association (PRA) – By:  Shannon M. Seymer-Tabaska

The Police Relief Association is a non-profit organization (501c3) whose PRA Board is elected by the membership, to include the Milwaukee Police Department Retirees Association (MPRA), the Milwaukee Police Association (MPA), and the Milwaukee Police Supervisor’s Organization (MPSO).   The current PRA Board members include: President:  Branko Stojsavljevic, Vice President: Vacant, Treasurer:  Shannon M. Seymer-Tabaska, Secretary:  Dena Klemstein, Directors:  Patrick Doyle (retired member), David Feldmeier, and Eric Pfeiffer.  In addition, the PRA Board has City Attorney Office representation under City Attorney Patrick McClain. 

To be an active member of the PRA, one must be a sworn active law enforcement officer and/or a retiree who pays monthly dues of $2.08 into the PRA fund, which includes those members approved for a duty and/or ordinary disability.  If a MPD member did not leave in good standing (i.e. termination and/or resigned) his/her PRA benefit ceases. 

At retirement, active law enforcement members have the option to “opt out” of the PRA, but the PRA Board discourages this option as the majority of members lose a $9000.00 benefit that their beneficiary is entitled to at time of death.  Once the latter “opt out” election is made, a member can’t re-enroll in the PRA.  In addition, in 1998, there was a member election regarding the $9000.00 benefit amount wherein members elected to increase their dues to receive the $9000.00 benefit, but if a member did not make the election, their entitlement is $8000.00.  There are also a few older retirees who only pay $1.25 per month into the PRA fund, so their benefit is reduced as well.

As an active member of the PRA, it is pertinent that any life change (i.e. marriage, birth/death, re-location, etc…) that result in beneficiary, address and/or phone changes, the PRA is provided the updated information. Updated information can be provided on a beneficiary form that can be found on the PRA website:  http://www.pra-milwaukee.com/

and/or the member can contact us at (414) 649-8373 to request a form be emailed and/or mailed.     

To claim a death benefit for a PRA member, the designee at death (i.e. spouse, surviving children) must contact the PRA at phone number (414)649-8373 to verify the member was active and in good standing and must provide a death certificate for the decedent.  Members should be aware that the PRA Board members time is voluntary, thus, we do not have a full-time staffed office and will make a good faith effort to respond as soon as possible.

Currently, the PRA Fund is at 8.5 million dollars and it is the PRA Board’s fiduciary responsibility to ensure money collected from members and through donations (i.e. Combined Giving and/or private donors) is invested for fund growth and we all thank you for allowing us to serve the membership as your PRA Board.

                                                        Branko, Shannon, Dena, Pat, David, and Eric


From Greg Thiele

As many of you know, I have had hearing aids for about 15 years. I had to pay out of pocket each time I needed new ones. Today I was at the Avada office in Wisconsin Rapids for my annual test, which is always free. While talking to my audiologist was I was informed that United Health Insurance is now covering portions of hearing aids. He thought that Humana also might be covering some of the cost. While at the office his receptionist contacted United Health and Avada’s corporate offices. I need new hearing aids. The cost is around $5000. United Health informed the receptionist that my out of pocket cost is around $800. They pay the rest. The portion they cover also has to do with how much is left on your deductible. I  for one never knew that United health was covering any of this. From what they told me, United Health will cover up to around $5000. I was also informed that Avada was bought out by a large company that now owns almost 95% of all hearing aid companies in the world. This company put pressure on many of the insurance companies to start to cover the cost. This company also lowered the cost of hearing aids to make them more affordable. The hearing aids that I am getting for $5000 were almost $9000 last year.   I hope this information helps some of you in the future.   Greg