Nevada PERS Pokes Holes in Study Claiming Public Pensioners Make More in Retirement Than They Did On Job

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Officials from the Nevada PERS are disputing a think tank report that claimed public pensioners were making more money in retirement than they did while working.

The report was produced by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

But Nevada PERS says the findings were based on a small sample size that renders the results meaningless.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

A retirement system official said Thursday a report showing that some public employees who retire collect more in pension benefits than they did while working was based on less than 2 percent of beneficiaries.

The analysis also does not reflect changes to the retirement plan made in 1985 that reduced pension payouts, said Tina Leiss, executive officer of the system.

The conclusions in the report issued by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas, do not account for the vast majority of the members and retirees of the Public Employees’ Retirement System, she said.

“It appears that the analysis was based on a review of 790 retirees whereas there are currently 49,179 retirees (not including survivors and beneficiaries) receiving benefits from the system,” Leiss said. “Over the last 3 fiscal years, approximately 12 percent of those retiring in those years did so with 30 or more years of service while approximately 88 percent did so with less than 30 years of service.”

NPRI officials have used the analysis as evidence of the need for reforms to the public employee retirement system, but Leiss said the analysis is not representative of the benefit structure in place for almost ail current members of the system. Benefits were reduced in 1985 from 90 percent to 75 percent of average compensation for newly hired public employees, she said.

The executive vice president of the NPRI responded:

Victor Joecks, executive vice president at NPRI, said PERS likes to use averages to make its case, which is why the analysis looking at those retiring with 30 years of service is so important. Those with 30 years or more can begin collecting their pensions in their 50s while private-sector workers have to put in much more time to collect Social Security, he said.

Public employees in PERS do not participate in Social Security.

“What it shows is the PERS system has a big inequity in it,” Joecks said. “If you only work for five years or 10 years it’s not a very good system for you.”

Including a 401(k) type of element to the public pension plan would work better for younger workers who don’t plan to make a career in public service because it stays with the employee, Joecks said.

Read more on the think tank report here.

 

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