WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

The Wall Street Journal is way too optimistic on pensions

The Wall Street Journal is trying to make the point that pensions' assumed 7.5% rate of return is increasingly difficult to achieve, but even the Journal's numbers are still way too optimistic.



The Journal thinks that with the portfolio on the right, you can still get 7.5% annual returns.  With 12% of the portfolio in bonds, where the Vanguard Total Bond Market is yielding 2.5% and prices have nowhere to go but down, you'd need a permanent bond market plateau and you'd have to earn 8.2% on the rest of your portfolio to get that 7.5% overall.

How are equities supposed to generate 8.2% in an era of 2% GDP growth, 2% inflation, 2% interest rates, and historically high valuations?  The Journal doesn't explain.  Famed investor Jeremy Grantham of GMO doesn't think they're going generate anything close to that.

What has the above portfolio actually earned in the past year?  Not so pretty.  Here's what it looks like, assuming small allocations to high-yield, emerging markets, and foreign real estate within the broader asset classes, and making the generous assumption that private equity returned 3% more than US Large Cap.



That looks a lot more like Jeremy Grantham's numbers than 7.5%!

It is certain that CalPERS is going to report yet another horror show of a year for its fiscal year ending June 30.

Spreadsheet here.


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