Wall Street had its ups and downs last year, but most retired public employees in Wisconsin, covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System, will see a slight increase in their pension checks, starting in May.
Retirees will get an increase of 0.5 percent in payments from the Core Trust Fund, Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) officials said Wednesday.
That would amount to about $124 a year more for the average retiree in the system, receiving an annual annuity of $24,780 as of Dec. 31, 2015.
The Core fund is the main account in the Wisconsin Retirement System, a diversified fund serving every system participant.
It showed a final return of minus-0.4 percent for 2015, but the Core fund results are smoothed over a five-year period. The fund had a market value of $85.3 billion as of Dec. 31, 2015.
Retired public employees with money in the Variable Trust Fund, though, will see a 5 percent reduction in that portion of their pension payments.
The Variable fund, an optional, all-stock fund, ended 2015 with a return of minus-1.2 percent and a value of $6.7 billion. The Variable fund results are not spread over multiple years.
The actual reduction does not necessarily match the fund’s result because of “actuarial calculations to fund current and future benefits,” ETF spokesman Mark Lamkins said.
Pensions of 192,000 retirees are affected by the Core fund adjustments; about 39,000 of them are also in the Variable fund.
ETF Secretary Robert Conlin said retirees should expect continued volatility and low returns in the investment markets, which may lead to relatively flat or negative Core annuity adjustments in the next few years.“While the long-term investment outlook is more positive, there will be some near-term challenges — albeit, hopefully, nothing like what happened in the years following the Great Recession,” said Conlin.
Retirees in the system were hit with cuts in their payments from the Core fund for five years, from 2009 through 2013, because of the stock market’s sharp decline in late 2008.
The WRS, whose funds are managed by the State of Wisconsin Investment Board, is the ninth-largest U.S. public pension fund. It provided $4.5 billion in retirement benefits in 2015.