By Daniel Borenstein
Posted: 04/02/2015 – 08:27:25 AM PDT
Updated: 04/02/2015 – 09:38:48 AM PDT

Unless it alters its current funding structure, CalPERS will be even more vulnerable to market losses in the next economic downturn than it was during its devastating plunge in the Great Recession.

That’s why leaders of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System are looking to shift more assets to less-risky investments. But, as they do that, CalPERS will need additional up-front money from state and local governments.

Like changes at the nation’s largest pension fund in each of the last three years, this one will also result in future rate hikes for public employers. The good news is that workers’ retirement pay will be more secure and taxpayers will experience less cost-shifting to future generations.

Most of the CalPERS governing board members recognize the adjustments are needed, but they have yet to determine the details and price. They’re trying to temper the impact on state and local governments, which already face pension rate increases of roughly 35 percent to 50 percent over the next six years from the three prior calculation changes.

In 2012, CalPERS lowered its forecast rate of return on investments. In 2013, it abandoned accounting practices that hid the magnitude of investment losses and led to annual contributions that were too small. In 2014, it revised actuarial projections to account for the likelihood that life expectancy would continue to increase.

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