Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. The Trump Stock Market Trap May Be Triggered - Barry_M_Ferguson
2.Why are Central Banks Buying Gold and Dumping Dollars? - Richard_Mills
3.US China War - Thucydides Trap and gold - Richard_Mills
4.Gold Price Trend Forcast to End September 2019 - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Money Saving Kids Gardening Growing Giant Sunflowers Summer Fun - Anika_Walayat
6.US Dollar Breakdown Begins, Gold Price to Bolt Higher - Jim_Willie_CB
7.INTEL (INTC) Stock Investing to Profit From AI Machine Learning Boom - Nadeem_Walayat
8.Will Google AI Kill Us? Man vs Machine Intelligence - N_Walayat
9.US Prepares for Currency War with China - Richard_Mills
10.Gold Price Epochal Breakout Will Not Be Negated by a Correction - Clive Maund
Last 7 days
Double Top In Transportation and Metals Breakout Are Key Stock Market Topping Signals - 18th July 19
AI Machine Learning PC Custom Build Specs for £2,500 - Scan Computers 3SX - 18th July 19
The Best “Pick-and-Shovel” Play for the Online Grocery Boom - 18th July 19
Is the Stock Market Rally Floating on Thin Air? - 18th July 19
Biotech Stocks With Near Term Catalysts - 18th July 19
SPX Consolidating, GBP and CAD Could be in Focus - 18th July 19
UK House Building and Population Growth Analysis - 17th July 19
Financial Crisis Stocks Bear Market Is Scary Close - 17th July 19
Want to See What's Next for the US Economy? Try This. - 17th July 19
What to do if You Blow the Trading Account - 17th July 19
Bitcoin Is Far Too Risky for Most Investors - 17th July 19
Core Inflation Rises but Fed Is Going to Cut Rates. Will Gold Gain? - 17th July 19
Boost your Trading Results - FREE eBook - 17th July 19
This Needs To Happen Before Silver Really Takes Off - 17th July 19
NASDAQ Should Reach 8031 Before Topping - 17th July 19
US Housing Market Real Terms BUY / SELL Indicator - 16th July 19
Could Trump Really Win the 2020 US Presidential Election? - 16th July 19
Gold Stocks Forming Bullish Consolidation - 16th July 19
Will Fed Easing Turn Out Like 1995 or 2007? - 16th July 19
Red Rock Entertainment Investments: Around the world in a day with Supreme Jets - 16th July 19
Silver Has Already Gone from Weak to Strong Hands - 15th July 19
Top Equity Mutual Funds That Offer Best Returns - 15th July 19
Gold’s Breakout And The US Dollar - 15th July 19
Financial Markets, Iran, U.S. Global Hegemony - 15th July 19
U.S Bond Yields Point to a 40% Rise in SPX - 15th July 19
Corporate Earnings may Surprise the Stock Market – Watch Out! - 15th July 19
Stock Market Interest Rate Cut Prevails - 15th July 19
Dow Stock Market Trend Forecast Current State July 2019 Video - 15th July 19
Why Summer is the Best Time to be in the Entertainment Industry - 15th July 19
Mid-August Is A Critical Turning Point For US Stocks - 14th July 19
Fed’s Recessionary Indicators and Gold - 14th July 19
The Problem with Keynesian Economics - 14th July 19
Stocks Market Investors Worried About the Fed? Don't Be -- Here's Why - 13th July 19
Could Gold Launch Into A Parabolic Upside Rally? - 13th July 19
Stock Market SPX and Dow in BREAKOUT but this is the worrying part - 13th July 19
Key Stage 2 SATS Tests Results Grades and Scores GDS, EXS, WTS Explained - 13th July 19
INTEL Stock Investing in Qubits and AI Neural Network Processors - Video - 12th July 19
Gold Price Selloff Risk High - 12th July 19
State of the US Economy as Laffer Gets Laughable - 12th July 19
Dow Stock Market Trend Forecast Current State - 12th July 19
Stock Market Major Index Top In 3 to 5 Weeks? - 11th July 19
Platinum Price vs Gold Price - 11th July 19
What This Centi-Billionaire Fashion Magnate Can Teach You About Investing - 11th July 19
Stock Market Fundamentals are Weakening: 3000 on SPX Means Nothing - 11th July 19
This Tobacco Stock Is a Big Winner from E-Cigarette Bans - 11th July 19
Investing in Life Extending Pharma Stocks - 11th July 19
How to Pay for It All: An Option the Presidential Candidates Missed - 11th July 19
Mining Stocks Flash Powerful Signal for Gold and Silver Markets - 11th July 19
5 Surefire Ways to Get More Viewers for Your Video Series - 11th July 19

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Top AI Stocks Investing to Profit from the Machine Intelligence Mega-trend

More Bankruptcy For Your Retirement Portfolio

Stock-Markets / Pensions & Retirement Feb 11, 2016 - 05:24 PM GMT

By: Rodney_Johnson

Stock-Markets

There’s an old saying that if you owe the bank $1 million, you have a problem. But if you owe the bank $100 million, then the bank has a problem.

That’s the situation we’re in today.

States around the country have racked up outrageous unpaid balances for their pensions. Few of them have any plan for digging out of the hole. Since they have no plan, they’re creating issues for everyone who might be called upon to help them make good on their obligations.


Even if you don’t live in one of these states, you might still have a problem. In effect, the states owe a lot of money, and all of us are the bank!

Some states, like Rhode Island, tried to deal with the issue. That state slashed benefits and jacked up contributions.

But in many states like Illinois, state pension benefits are constitutionally guaranteed, so benefits cannot be cut. This leaves taxpayers in the state to foot the bills as they come due, no matter what the cost. And in some cases, bondholders suffer as well.

That’s where you might have a problem.

In Illinois, the unfunded liability sits at $110 billion and is getting worse by the month. After years of mismanagement by the state, Illinois has about 48 cents of every dollar it needs to make good on its pension promises.

Across the country, smaller entities like cities, school systems, and counties are suffering from the same disease – official mismanagement.

The basic problem is that current politicians negotiate changes, while future politicians are left to clean up the mess when things blow up. These changes include benefit increases, fewer years of service needed to retire, and how much the entity will contribute each year to the pension.

Now, the politicians who created today’s problems in the 1990s and early 2000s aren’t around to answer for their sins.

Meanwhile, the workers who toiled for years with their pensions in mind want what is rightfully theirs.

This is all coming to a head in states like Illinois, and cities like Chicago. The money’s running out, and government officials refuse to raise taxes any higher on their constituents.

It’s about to get interesting, and not in a good way. As to what lies ahead, we have two prime examples. One has already played out, and the other is still unfolding.

Fool Me Once, Shame on Me

The city of Detroit’s bankruptcy was the largest municipal failing in U.S. history. It owed $18 billion that it could not pay. With falling tax rolls and declining population, Detroit begged, borrowed and stole for years to keep going. Eventually it reached the end of its rope.

Besides pensions, the city was also indebted to its bondholders. At the time, investors who bought bonds felt pretty secure. After all, they were backed by the full faith and credit of the City of Detroit. Later on, they realized their mistake.

The contract said that bondholders would be paid before anyone else. No one ever assumes the worst – like a bankruptcy – will come. But here’s a question: what city officials in their right mind will choose to pay bondholders over their police officers, firemen and teachers? Even though it is legally correct, any politician that did so would be run out of town on a rail!

It’s true that some of those boldholders are regular guys like you and me just trying to fund their own retirement. Even so, the town had no intention of paying them with every last dime available. Instead, they diverted money to payroll and city services. They kept their city running.

That might seem like a humane decision, but it defied the contract the city signed when it took the money from bond investors.

The worst offender is the Detroit pension system itself. Detroit borrowed money specifically to top off its ailing pension plan, but then fell behind anyway. When the city went bust, it claimed this bond issue was unauthorized, and therefore they didn’t owe the bond investors anything.

They wanted to have it both ways: get the money, and owe nothing.

And that’s what happened. The bondholders that funded the pension received about 15 cents on the dollar. Meanwhile, the retirees got almost everything they were owed.

Fool Me Twice…

Now Puerto Rico is doing the same dance. The island Commonwealth owes roughly $72 billion among several issuers, including their power authority, general obligation bonds, local development authority, and “moral obligation” bonds.

I put the last one in quotes because these bonds were anything but moral.

When the island reached its maximum borrowing capacity, it wanted to borrow more. So instead of issuing general obligation or some other traditional bond, it issued what are called “moral obligation” bonds. These bondholders couldn’t sue for payment. Government officials were only morally, not technically, obligated to pay them.

That didn’t last too long. Puerto Rico has already quit paying on these bonds. Now island officials are negotiating with the other bondholders on how big of a discount they will get, even as the officials illegally move money from one pot to another.

Since this is a Commonwealth and not a city or county, it doesn’t have access to federal bankruptcy law. The government of Puerto Rico is supposed to pay its debts, period. And it can. The island has enough assets that it could sell to meet its obligations. It can also cut benefits and reduce payrolls.

But it won’t. Instead, it will lay the problem at the feet of bondholders.

This is where you become the bank.

If you own a tax free bond fund, chances are you own Puerto Rico bonds, and your fund will take a hit.

Unfortunately, most bond fund buyers don’t look beyond the rating and the yield on the fund. These metrics won’t help. Investors need to do a much deeper dive on what they own to make sure they aren’t holding the bag when things blow up. This is one time when it doesn’t pay to be the bank.

Rodney

Follow me on Twitter ;@RJHSDent

By Rodney Johnson, Senior Editor of Economy & Markets

http://economyandmarkets.com

Copyright © 2016 Rodney Johnson - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

Rodney Johnson Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules