Entries by Joshua Elliott-Traficante

NHRS System Returns Show Strong 3rd Quarter, Still Behind for the Year

The recently released investment return figures from the third quarter show that while the New Hampshire Retirement System investment fund saw a 8.4% return in the corpus’s investments, beating the benchmark, the fund has only seen returns of just under 3% so far for the year, falling short of the 7.75% assumed rate of return.

The domestic equity portfolio, saw a 12.2% return, though falling short of the benchmark of 12.9%. Non-US equity saw 13.2%, which beat its benchmark by 2 points. Fixed income assets also did well, seeing a 2.5% return versus a .9% benchmark.

Pension Reform Resources

With growing funding shortfalls, exacerbated by the recent economic turmoil, many states are taking a hard look at reforming their state pension systems. We here at the Josiah Bartlett Center have been following this trend here in New Hampshire as well as in other states across the country. Below is some of our work done on pensions so far

An Updated Look at the New Hampshire Retirement System, the Unfunded Liability and Troubling Trends

Joshua Elliott-Traficante February 2012   Earlier this month, the New Hampshire Retirement System (NHRS or ‘the System’) released its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) revealing the current state of the System at the close of the last fiscal year. Fiscal Year 2011 saw assets grow by nearly $1 Billion, however the funding ratio dropped more […]

Defined Contribution Models in Other States

With mounting unfunded liabilities in their pension systems, made worse by the recent economic turmoil, many states have begun looking at other retirement benefit options. In recent years, policy makers in a number of states have turned away from the pure pension model, instead opting for plans that are not only fair to the employees but also free the taxpayers from being left with the bill for huge deficits. Given the scale of the pension funding crisis, several reform minded states have instituted a variety of systems to replace their pension systems, which are outlined in the following paper.

Pure Defined Contribution System:

A pure defined contribution system functions in the same way as a private sector 401(k) does. However, rather than having employee contributions matched by the employer up to a certain percentage of salary, state plans tend to fix the contribution rates, similar to a defined benefit plan. Under a defined contribution plan, all of the risks and rewards of the investments are placed with the employee. Due to this shift in risk from the employer to the employee, there will never be an unfunded liability under a defined contribution system because there are no liabilities other than the initial contribution by employers.

Gas Prices in NH: Top off now

As reported by WMUR this morning, gas prices have slightly increased over the past week, after a slight dip.

Looking at data from GasBuddy.com we see some interesting historical trends when it comes to March gas prices.

March historically sees a plateauing in gas prices, followed by a spike that peaks roughly around Memorial Day. The extent of the peaks vary from year to year, over the past 6 years as historical data, with anomalous years removed, NH typically sees a 17% jump in prices.

That being said, there is only so much room for prices to go up. Last year we saw only a 13% run up from a price level of about $3.50/gal, where prices rose right up against the $4/gal mark. This year we are starting at a base of roughly $3.65/gal, and a 13% increase would mean about $4.11/gal.

Conventional wisdom holds that $4.00/gal is the psychological point in which people begin to change their driving habits and most industry experts contend that the oil companies, faced with the loss of sales, will try to keep it under $4.00 a gallon. However there is only so much wiggle room before they would have to sell gas at a loss to keep it at or below $4.00/gal.

On a side note, if you haven’t discovered Gasbuddy.com yet, it is certainly worth a look. Beyond historical data, their primary purpose is to provide real time gas prices. Using something akin to a Wikipedia model, gas prices are updated by users punching in data from their local gas stations. Though these days gas prices can change several times a day, the time of the last update is noted which gives the reader an idea of how the accurate that figure is at that particular moment in time. For example, if the last update is 2 hours old, chances are it is right on the mark, if it is 18 hours old, maybe not. Data older than 36 hours is removed from the list.

It is a great tool if you are looking for the best price on gas whether it be around town, somewhere along your commute or on a trip.

Long story short, gas prices are only going to go up (baring some unforeseen event), so fill up now.

-Josh