About the Tool
The State Pension Tracker, created by the Pension Integrity Project at Reason Foundation, uses a combination of Public Plans Data (PPD) and its own proprietary set of data and calculations. Historical data is sourced directly from publicly available annual comprehensive financial reports (ACFR) and actuarial valuations, which are published by plans.
Public pension plans report their own annual investment gains and losses on their own timetables, and states use different fiscal year-end dates, so actual 2023 investment return results are not available at the time of this writing (Sept. 2023) and will not be immediately available for most state pension plans.
For state and public pension plans that have not yet reported their investment returns for 2023, the tool applies whatever investment return rate that the user selects in the “2023 Return” slider to estimate the pension system’s 2023 assets and debt — “UAL & Return Estimate/Projection.”
Once a new 2023 investment return result is officially reported by a public pension system, and before official unfunded liability figures are released in annual reports, the tool applies the reported investment return to estimate the pension system's debt, or “UAL Estimate.”
The tool's unfunded accrued liability (UAL) and funded ratio estimates use a market value of assets. This tool will be updated regularly throughout the year to reflect the new investment return data and unfunded liability figures as they are made publicly available in public pension plans' annual reports.
For any questions or comments about the State Pension Tracker, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reason Foundation’s pension reform research and analysis is available here.
Notes on Methodology
Denoting the states' returns or unfunded liability figures as "official" or "estimate" is not exactly straightforward. One way to do this is to label a state's aggregate number as "official" when all the associated state plans' numbers have been released. A problem with this approach is a small state plan that has not reported the number would render the whole state's number "unofficial", even though that plan has a negligible effect on the state's figure. Instead of doing that, we modified the conditional by using an "official threshold": if the state plans that have reported the number already make up more than 90% of the state's actuarial accrued liability, then the state's aggregate number is considered "official", even though some small plans of that state have not released their figures yet.
The inflation adjustment is done with the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers - All Items (CPIAUCSL). The base year used to calculate the real dollar amounts is 2023. For example, the inflation adjusted unfunded liability for year 2020 is calculated as follows:
real UAL_2020 = nominal UAL_2020 * CPI_2023 / CPI_2020
The CPI data for 2023 however is not yet complete. For the missing months, we estimate the CPI by assuming they will follow the same annualized inflation rate as the most recent month for which we have data.