As many as 31 states could see their pension plan assets dry up by 2030, this according to a new study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

In a new research paper titled: Policy Options for State Pensions Systems and Their Impact on Pension Liabilities,” Associate Finance Professor Joshua Rauh explains that the large and daunting group of troubled states pension funds “are headed for run outs and financial disaster,” an Aug. 19 announcement said.

The information, which was compiled with some assistance from Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester, includes the meticulous examination of nearly 116 state government pension funds. It also contains all U.S. plans with more than $1 billion in assets.

Roughly three months earlier, Rauh’s presentation at the “New Retirement Realities: Pensions at a Crossroads” conference held in Washington, D.C. revealed that within 10-years, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Indiana, Oklahoma and Hawaii could all see their state pension funds fade away.

Alternately, the previous research also foreshadowed the 31-state plateau, stating that “this is a problem of monumental proportion…given that we see the same issue in many states…[it could] potentially cost more than $1 trillion total [to rectify],” Rauh said at the time.

From this updated investigation, Rauh stated today that under existing policies; unfunded liabilities top out at about $3 trillion, a bill that taxpayers will likely face in the long-term due to current state statutes and limitations.

In the research’s calculations, Rauh said he utilized a differing method from those that are used by most states, which “inappropriately use expected returns on assets to discount pension liabilities.”

“….Assuming states don't start defaulting on their bonds and other debts, it seems that taxpayers will be footing most of the multi-trillion dollar bill for the pension promises that states have already made to workers,” Rauh said in the Thursday announcement.

While changes in COLAs, raising retirement age and implementing actuarially fair early retirement would provide some minor medicine, Rauh said in the paper that a cure to this funding cancer is nowhere in sight.

“The bottom line is that even much more drastic versions of the policy actions currently being discussed don't come close to solving the problem, since so much of the pension debt is owed to workers who have already retired,” Rauh stated.

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