The Case for Marking Public Plan Liabilities to Market
State and local U.S. pension plans hold an estimated $3 trillion in assets, with market values regularly disclosed in plan financial statements. By contrast, public defined benefit pension liabilities are routinely reported at actuarial values which may differ substantially from market values. We propose that a more accurate way to value plan liabilities measures the present value of accrued benefits discounted at market interest rates for fixed income investments that are (or are nearly) default-free. We illustrate the difference between these measures for a set of public sector pensions using publicly available information.