Why Your Pension is So Small



Saturday, May 05, 2007

BY ART AISNER

News Staff Reporter

Washtenaw County’s (Michigan) retirement system is need of a serious overhaul, and county officials are heading to Hawaii to help execute it.

Five members of Washtenaw County Employees’ Retirement Commission are planning to attend the weeklong National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems conference in Honolulu May 18-24, a trip expected to cost $13,500 from taxpayer-backed pension funds…. (Complete documentation of this senless boodogle here:)

I’m not writing this to pick on Washtenaw County, or even the State of Michigan, whose pension plans are described elsewhere in the article as “tanking”.  I’m writing this as a public service to perhaps wake up just one or two people in each of the 3,000-odd US countries to wake up and “extract the digit” as Prince Philip was once famously quoted.

One could start a whole blog on the advisability of every Tom< Dick and Harry county organization starting and running their own retirement plans … perhaps I will in the future.  Local control, responsiveness to the needs of the concerned plan members, reduced overhead as compared to big commercial plans … these are the common arguments that out politicians use to get themselves into these often ill-advised mini-HSBC’s (HSBC just paid a whopping fine for cheating on pension investments, if one of the largest banks in the world can’t do it honestly, who can we trust?)

Most of these plans do not have the capital and the day-to-day expertise to really make large, highly technical move sin the market.  This is almost always a”good thing”, else they would be investing the employee’s money in Uncle Fred’s Video Rental franchise or some other high-risk endeavor and bankrupting themselves.  So, as a rule, (and often in compliance with state laws) these “little guys” stick to approved and safe investments and just do the administrative work of seeing to it that employee’s pay, money gets invested and then, in their sunset years, employees get paid.

To send off every tiny county’s fund manager (and a retinue of half a dozen or more for every one of the US counties) strike me as stupid, wasteful and a slap in the face to every trusting public service employee.  Why should the guy sweating on the roadgrader in summer and freezing his ass off on the snowplow in the winter be contributing his hard-earned salary to send these characters off to Hawaii to “network”.  Didn’t these guys ever hear of a telephone ands the Internet?

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