How defined benefit plans help our economy


Michael Wilkinson, LACERS/Legal Representative

By Michael R. Wilkinson, LACERS Commissioner



don’t know about you, but to me it seems that so much of the news coverage on public pensions is negative and stresses the taxpayers’ burden and leaves out the positive aspects of these pensions you have earned over a work lifetime.

Well, I came across a great study called Pensionomics 2023 prepared by the National Institute of Retirement Security (NIRS) that helps to provide balance to this story. NIRS is a nonprofit research group that supports education on public and private defined benefit plans around the country.

The 2020 report covered the United States as a whole as well as itemized reports by state. California made the largest contribution to the total.

While Pensionomics does not provide reports about LACERS specifically, the totals include the LACERS payments and the structure of where funds come from to pay for LACERS pensions is the same. Statewide the pension payments consisted of 12 percent employee contributions, 61 percent investment earnings and only 27 percent employer contributions.

In 2020, more than 1.5 million Californians received $61.5 million in pension benefits from state and local pension plans. This supported a total of $76.1 billion in total economic output using the ripple effect of spending. From these benefits, $3.7 billion in federal taxes were paid and $8.1 billion state and local taxes.

Retiree spending supported 381,038 jobs at a time when California’s unemployment rate was 10.2 percent. Pension-supporting jobs were two percentage points of that total.

So, the next time someone makes a snide remark about undeserving public employees who get great pensions, just remember that you could say “you’re welcome” to the unstated “thank you for your years of public service.” Well, you could, but you shouldn’t. However, know that your pensions are an important part of the local economy.