Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

It Appears the North Carolina State Treasurer is in Violation of G.S. 147-68

The North Carolina State Treasurer is required by law (G.S. 147-68) to make quarterly reports to the State Legislature.  These quarterly reports have always been posted to the Treasurer's website (click here and see the bottom of the page).  However, no reports have been posted since December of last year (2012).  It appears the Treasurer is fully three quarters behind in complying with the law, and will soon be a full year behind in her quarterly reports.

 These "Government Investment Operations Reports" (commonly referred to as the "Gov Ops Reports") are the only place investment expenses are ever reported for the North Carolina Retirement System (NCRS) pension fund.  Most notably, these reports include the amounts paid to external investment managers.  

These expenses are not even reported in the so-called "Annual Report" of the Treasurer - which is completely ridiculous.  If expenses are not reported in a Treasurer's Annual Report, why have the report at all?  There are plenty of happy pictures of the Treasurer and staff in the Annual Report, but not a single page that I would consider a "financial statement."  In the most recent Annual Report (18-month old data as of 6/30/2012), a single page (p. 100) contains one simple summary table which is the only list of expenses to be found in the entire report.  No details what so ever, just one summary table.  And, this lone table of expenses does not even include a comparison to last year's expenses.

MOST IMPORTANT, the one table of expenditures buried on page 100 of the Annual Report DOES NOT include ALL of the Treasurer's or NCRS departmental expenses.

Monday, December 16, 2013

North Carolina Retirement System Pension Fund Should Index

Last week I blogged about how bad North Carolina's pension investment returns have been.  This week, I thought I'd point out a simple solution to the poor performance.  A simple portfolio of Vanguard Index Mutual Funds not only would beat the performance of North Carolina's pension, but has outperformed more than 75% of all public pensions over the past 3, 5, and 10 year periods. (Click here and see page 4 for investment returns of all public pensions). 













North Carolina Pension Investment Returns as of 9/30/2013













1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year


North Carolina Pension
9.97%

8.82%

7.78%

6.89%


Median Public Pension
12.25%

10.29%

8.23%

7.27%


Passive Index Mutual Funds*
12.33%

12.00%

10.33%

8.42%












NC Under-performance vs. Index Funds
-2.36%

-3.18%

-2.55%

-1.53%












NC Tax-payer cost for under-performance
$2
 Billion
$8
 Billion
$11
 Billion
$13
 Billion













Why all pensions don't index is a mystery to me?  North Carolina’s pension at $83 billion, like many public pensions, are so large, it's inconceivable that their 240+ external managers could collectively outperform "the market."  It is ridiculous – and expensive – for them to even try. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

North Carolina Pension Investment Performance is Bad, Again

North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell recently released North Carolina’s pension investment returns.  As usual, the press release did not provide any relevant point of reference as to whether the returns were “good” or “bad” other than to compare them to an obscure, undefined, and obviously cherry picked benchmark.  On the surface, it would appear the returns are “good” since every return for every time period was higher than this mysterious, ever changing, self-managed and self-serving “benchmark.”

I thought I’d compare North Carolina pension investment returns to the average public pension returns as published by The Bank of New York Mellon Public Pension Universe (click here and see page 4).  Glancing at the table below, I believe the word “bad” adequately describes North Carolina’s pension investment performance.  Over any time period one wishes to compare, the North Carolina pension investment performance lags the median public pension returns.


North Carolina Pension Investment Returns as of 9/30/2013









1-Year

3-Year

5-Year

10-Year
North Carolina
9.97%

8.82%

7.78%

6.89%
Median Public Pension
12.25%

10.29%

8.23%

7.27%
Under-performance
-2.28%

-1.47%

-0.45%

-0.38%


Just to put the last year’s investment performance in perspective, if the $83 billion North Carolina pension merely had average returns, the pension would have earned an extra $2 billion. This is roughly the equivalent of 10% of the entire North Carolina state annual budget!  Or, this $2 billion short fall is roughly the equivalent of 20% of the entire state's annual spending on education. 

If you are a state employee or teacher and you are upset about budget cuts and a lack of raises, just imagine what the state of North Carolina could do with an extra $2 billion. That could be a reality if only your pension investments could achieve “average” returns.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage and Tax Return Filing Status in North Carolina

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) now allows same-sex married couples to file a "married filing jointly" tax return.  However, many states do not allow these couples to file using the "married filing jointly" status.  My home state of North Carolina recently released a directive for these couples outlining how to file.  You can read the full directive by clicking here

These couples will file their federal tax return using the "married filing jointly" tax status, but will also need to recalculate a separate "pro forma" federal tax return under the single status for each individual (or head of household as the case may be).  Both will need to file separately with North Carolina and attach a "pro forma" federal tax return to their state tax return.  

Thus, these couples will need to fill out a total of 5 income tax returns:

1 - Federal income tax return submitted to the IRS (Married)
2 - Federal income tax returns submitted to the North Carolina Department of Revenue (Single)
2 - State income tax returns submitted to the North Carolina Department of Revenue (Single)

Please feel free to send me your questions on this or any other topic at:  InvestorCookbooks(at)gmail.com