You might have thought your public pension was on shaky ground, but you're likely still being too kind.
Influential and well-regarded hedge fund Bridgewater Associates Wednesday warns public pensions are likely to achieve 4% returns on their assets, or worse. If Bridgewater is right, that means 85% of public pension funds will be going bankrupt in three decades.
Bridgewater came to these conclusions by stress testing the nation's public pension plans, much the way banks need to be evaluated on what could happen given a wide range out outcomes.
Public pensions have just $3 trillion in assets to invest to cover future retirement payments of $10 trillion over the next many decades, Bridgewater says. An investment return of roughly 9% a year is needed to meet those onerous obligations.
Many pension observers make the claim pensions will achieve 7% to 8% returns. But even if that assumption is correct, which is unlikely, public pensions are looking at a 20% shortfall, Bridgewater says. A 4% return is much more likely, the firm says.
Bridgewater set up a sophisticated model to simulate many of the possible market environments to see how they would affect public pension's resources. In 20% of those scenarios, public pensions run out of money in 20 years. And in 80% of the scenarios, public pensions run out of money within 50 years, Bridgewater says.
Bridgewater is a well-known, large and widely regarded hedge fund founded in 1975 by Ray Dalio and based in Westport, Conn.