User-Friendly Online Tool Provides Easily Accessible Data, Rates Performance Of Commonwealth’s 100+ Public Pension Systems
Pioneer Institute is unveiling the MassPensions data accessibility tool that provides year-by-year comparative data and ratings for the performance of each of the commonwealth’s more than 100 retirement systems.
“This low-cost, easily updatable Internet tool is a straightforward way to grasp the fiscal status of each public pension system,” said Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios. “It also demonstrates just how easy technology makes it to share government information with the public in a transparent way.”
The tool is available at MassPensions.com (as well as .org) and includes most of the data provided in the annual reports of the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) and its predecessor for the period 1985-2012. It was developed at Pioneer by Senior Fellow on Finance Iliya Atanasov and Research Assistant Lingling Fan.
At MassPensions.com, users choose a retirement board from a drop-down menu and several tabs instantaneously provide access to various types of information.
One tab generates an overview of the fund, including information such as the deadline by which it plans to have assets sufficient to cover its liabilities, the assumed rate of return for pension fund investments, the fund’s custodian and its investment consultants.
Another tab focuses on the members served by each system, with information such as the current number of retirees and employees, their average ages and compensation.
A financial condition tab provides data on a board’s funded ratio (the percentage of liabilities covered by the money that it has on hand), its total actuarial liability and the year-end value of its assets.
Another tab provides data on a fund’s investment performance, which can be compared to the performance of other Massachusetts public retirement funds and three additional market benchmarks.
An asset allocation tab displays charts of each fund’s portfolio, revealing where pension reserves have been invested over time.
Pioneer rates the funds with a letter grade by taking the average of three metrics: funded ratio, actual investment returns relative to assumed returns and how many years the board is from being fully funded.
Public institutions should work to leverage open-source platforms in designing and implementing broader and more effective transparency initiatives at low cost to promote accountability, civic engagement and meaningful policy discourse.
About the Authors:
Iliya Atanasov is Pioneer’s Senior Fellow on Finance, leading the research tracks on pension management, data analysis and municipal performance. He is a PhD candidate in Political Science and Government and MA candidate in Statistics as well as a former Presidential Fellow at Rice University. He also holds BAs in Business Administration, Economics and Political Science/International Relations from the American University in Bulgaria.
Lingling Fan is Research Assistant to the Senior Fellow on Finance at Pioneer. Her portfolio of initiatives includes the Institute’s MassPensions and MassAnalysis online data projects. She holds an MA in Economics from Boston University and BAs in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
About Pioneer Institute:
Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.
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