Overview

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 6,000 public sector retirement systems exist in the U.S.  Some of the 299 state-administered plans and 5,977 locally-administered plans date back to the 19th century and each has evolved independently. Collectively, these plans have:

  • $4.5 trillion in assets
  • 14.7 million active (working) members and 11.2 million retirees
  • $323 billion in benefit distributions annually

Most public pension plans release financial reports with information on pension trust cash flows and plan membership as well as actuarial data on plan assets, liabilities, and annual costs. These financial reports are prepared in compliance with the accounting standards set by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and can be found on most plans’ websites. Significant differences exist among plans: the benefit design of their plans, manner in which plans are funded, membership composition, and investment policy.  This quick-fact page highlights the aggregate status of public pension plans across the nation, as reported in their own financial documents.

Assets, Participants and Benefits

State and Local Defined Benefit Plan Assets Year-End, 1992- (Trillions)

Fiscal Year PPD Flow of Funds
1992 null 0.9
1993 null 1.0
1994 null 1.1
1995 null 1.2
1996 null 1.4
1997 null 1.7
1998 null 2.0
1999 null 2.2
2000 null 2.4
2001 2.1 2.3
2002 1.9 2.2
2003 2.0 2.2
2004 2.2 2.5
2005 2.5 2.7
2006 2.6 2.9
2007 3.0 3.3
2008 2.7 3.1
2009 2.2 2.4
2010 2.5 2.7
2011 2.8 3.1
2012 2.8 3.0
2013 3.1 3.3
2014 3.4 3.7
2015 3.4 3.8
2016 3.4 3.7
2017 3.7 4.0
2018 3.9 4.3
2019 4.1 4.4

Source: Public Plans Database; Federal Flow of Funds

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Number of Actives per Annuitant, 1992-2020

Fiscal Year PPD Census
1992 null 2.5
1993 null 2.6
1994 null 2.5
1995 null 2.5
1996 null 2.5
1997 null 2.5
1998 null 2.4
1999 null 2.4
2000 null 2.2
2001 2.4 2.3
2002 2.3 2.3
2003 2.2 2.2
2004 2.1 2.1
2005 2.1 1.8
2006 2.0 2.0
2007 2.0 1.9
2008 1.9 1.9
2009 1.9 1.9
2010 1.8 1.8
2011 1.7 1.7
2012 1.6 1.6
2013 1.5 1.5
2014 1.5 1.5
2015 1.4 1.5
2016 1.4 1.4
2017 1.4 1.4
2018 1.3 1.3
2019 1.3 1.3

Source: Census; Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Costs

Employer's Annual Required Contribution as a Percent of Payroll and Portion Paid, 2001-2020

Fiscal Year Portion of ARC paid Portion of ARC left unpaid Percent of Payroll {role:annotation}
2001 5.2 0.0 5.2 5.2
2002 4.7 0.2 4.9 4.9
2003 5.4 0.4 5.8 5.8
2004 6.6 0.7 7.4 7.4
2005 8.0 1.0 9.0 9.0
2006 8.6 0.9 9.5 9.5
2007 9.6 0.7 10.3 10.3
2008 9.7 1.0 10.7 10.7
2009 9.5 1.2 10.6 10.6
2010 9.6 2.0 11.6 11.6
2011 11.1 2.5 13.5 13.5
2012 11.6 2.4 14.1 14.1
2013 12.6 2.5 15.2 15.2
2014 13.8 2.0 15.8 15.8
2015 15.0 1.2 16.2 16.2
2016 15.2 0.9 16.1 16.1
2017 15.7 0.7 16.4 16.4
2018 17.9 0.6 18.5 18.5
2019 17.1 0.5 17.6 17.6
2020 17.2 0.5 17.6 17.6

Source: Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Employer's Annual Required Contribution as a Percent of Payroll and Own-Source Revenue, 2001-2020

Fiscal Year ARC as % of payroll ARC as % of revenue
2001 5.2 1.0
2002 4.9 1.1
2003 5.8 1.3
2004 7.4 1.5
2005 9.0 1.8
2006 9.5 1.8
2007 10.3 1.9
2008 10.7 2.0
2009 10.6 2.1
2010 11.6 2.3
2011 13.5 2.6
2012 14.1 2.6
2013 15.2 2.7
2014 15.8 2.8
2015 16.2 2.8
2016 16.1 2.8
2017 16.4 2.8
2018 18.5 3.1
2019 17.6 3.0
2020 17.6 null

Source: Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Actuarial Funding

Actuarial Funded Ratio for State and Local Pensions, 2001-2020

Fiscal Year Percent
2001 101.8
2002 94.8
2003 89.0
2004 87.3
2005 85.4
2006 85.2
2007 86.4
2008 84.4
2009 78.3
2010 75.7
2011 74.3
2012 72.3
2013 72.3
2014 73.2
2015 73.2
2016 71.7
2017 72.1
2018 72.4
2019 72.2
2020 72.4

Source: Public Plans Database and PENDAT

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Investments

Asset Allocation for State and Local Pensions, 2020

Category Percent
Equities 46.5
Fixed Income 23.2
Private Equity 9.3
Real Estate 8.8
Cash 2.4
Other 0.1
Commodities 1.7
Hedge Fund 6.3
Misc. Alternatives 1.5

Source: Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Asset allocation for State and Local Pensions, 2001-2020

Fiscal Year Equities Fixed Income Private Equity Real Estate Cash Other Commodities Hedge Fund Misc. Alternatives
2001 57.7 31.5 3.6 4.4 1.8 0.1 0.0 0.3 0.4
2002 56.7 32.7 3.6 4.6 1.7 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.4
2003 58.6 30.5 3.6 4.4 2.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4
2004 61.9 27.7 3.5 4.2 1.6 0.0 0.2 0.3 0.5
2005 61.3 27.8 3.9 4.4 1.4 0.0 0.2 0.5 0.4
2006 61.6 26.4 4.1 5.0 1.6 0.0 0.2 0.5 0.5
2007 59.9 25.9 4.8 5.5 1.7 0.0 0.2 1.3 0.6
2008 54.0 27.4 6.6 6.9 1.6 0.0 0.6 2.0 0.8
2009 50.4 29.0 7.4 6.3 2.6 0.0 0.7 2.8 0.8
2010 50.7 27.7 8.3 6.0 2.0 0.0 0.8 3.2 0.9
2011 51.8 24.6 8.7 6.7 2.3 0.1 1.0 3.8 1.0
2012 49.6 24.6 9.2 7.9 2.0 0.1 1.1 4.4 1.0
2013 51.0 22.5 8.8 7.9 2.2 0.1 1.1 5.4 1.0
2014 51.5 21.5 8.4 7.7 2.2 0.1 1.2 6.4 1.0
2015 50.0 22.1 8.4 8.2 1.8 0.2 1.4 6.8 1.0
2016 48.4 22.8 8.5 8.8 1.7 0.2 1.5 6.9 1.1
2017 49.5 21.8 8.4 8.4 2.0 0.2 1.6 7.0 1.1
2018 48.1 22.5 8.9 8.4 1.8 0.2 1.7 7.1 1.2
2019 47.0 23.3 9.2 8.8 1.8 0.0 1.9 6.8 1.3
2020 46.5 23.2 9.3 8.8 2.4 0.1 1.7 6.3 1.5

Source: Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Annual Return for State and Local Pensions, 1992-2020

Fiscal Year Annual Return Assumed Return
1992 10.17 8.22
1993 5.01 8.21
1994 10.88 8.20
1995 11.31 8.17
1996 14.54 8.15
1997 16.76 8.15
1998 17.45 8.15
1999 12.13 8.11
2000 15.50 8.07
2001 1.34 8.05
2002 2.22 8.02
2003 3.14 7.98
2004 17.18 7.94
2005 9.48 7.94
2006 11.20 7.92
2007 15.71 7.92
2008 -3.47 7.90
2009 -20.90 7.88
2010 14.11 7.80
2011 17.64 7.69
2012 2.98 7.65
2013 10.71 7.64
2014 15.83 7.62
2015 5.54 7.57
2016 0.69 7.49
2017 10.67 7.39
2018 10.18 7.24
2019 4.15 7.18

Source: Census of Governments

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Rolling 30-year Investment Return for State and Local Pensions, 1992-2020

Fiscal Year 30-yr return Assumed Return
1992 7.10 8.22
1993 7.16 8.21
1994 7.42 8.20
1995 7.66 8.17
1996 8.02 8.15
1997 8.42 8.15
1998 8.88 8.15
1999 9.14 8.11
2000 9.50 8.07
2001 9.40 8.05
2002 9.32 8.02
2003 9.20 7.98
2004 9.62 7.94
2005 9.77 7.94
2006 9.93 7.92
2007 10.35 7.92
2008 9.93 7.90
2009 8.83 7.88
2010 9.03 7.80
2011 9.37 7.69
2012 9.11 7.65
2013 9.05 7.64
2014 9.31 7.62
2015 9.12 7.57
2016 8.69 7.49
2017 8.57 7.39
2018 8.65 7.24
2019 8.45 7.18

Source: Census of Governments

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Cash Flows

Cash Flow vs. Total Assets (Billions)
2001-2020

Fiscal Year Cash Flow Assets
2001 -42.5 2,089.6
2002 -46.2 1,913.9
2003 -50.7 1,980.9
2004 -45.0 2,246.2
2005 -53.6 2,460.5
2006 -59.2 2,649.5
2007 -63.0 3,018.8
2008 -63.9 2,732.5
2009 -69.8 2,235.1
2010 -78.8 2,468.6
2011 -87.0 2,804.3
2012 -91.5 2,812.2
2013 -96.5 3,064.5
2014 -98.4 3,430.3
2015 -96.1 3,431.1
2016 -102.6 3,401.1
2017 -106.8 3,730.3
2018 -101.4 3,889.8
2019 -105.2 4,082.4
2020 -102.3 4,137.4

Source: Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Cash Flow as a Percentage of Assets
2001-2020

Fiscal Year National Average
2001 -2.0
2002 -2.4
2003 -2.6
2004 -2.0
2005 -2.2
2006 -2.2
2007 -2.1
2008 -2.3
2009 -3.1
2010 -3.2
2011 -3.1
2012 -3.3
2013 -3.1
2014 -2.9
2015 -2.8
2016 -3.0
2017 -2.9
2018 -2.6
2019 -2.6
2020 -2.5

Source: Public Plans Database

National data averages are weighted by plan size.

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Interactive Chart

Social Security Coverage of State and Local Employees, by State