EDITOR'S NOTE: How safe are your pension funds, really? If you’re in the retirement red zone, you may be facing a triple threat: not only is your pension fund at risk, but whatever you receive from your fund is likely going to be diluted in value thanks to the highest inflation rate we’ve seen since the 1970s; and furthermore, you’re entering retirement at a time when the domestic and global economy may be grinding to a halt. This means that if you need to find extra work while in retirement to pay for skyrocketing costs, there might not be much work available. On the other side of the world, the Bank of England is trying to rescue retirement accounts as their markets and currency are plunging. We’re facing a parallel situation here in the US. American pension funds are vulnerable to an implosion. How bad is it? You can read about it here.
Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with Jason Burack from Wall Street for Main Street to offer up my updated thoughts on the Federal Reserve, the economy and the state of the world in general.
The first thing we talked about was current Fed policy, which I told Jason I thought was a case of too much, too late. I made the argument that the Fed is, as it always does, overshooting its mark, and doing so at the wrong time.
This, as I have written several times, is why I believe the market is going to be in for a serious crash at some point within the next several months. I reiterated my stance to him that the economy and stock market have not yet truly digested 3% interest rates and, when they do, there will be hell to pay.
I also talked to Jason about why I think equity markets wind up 30% to 40% lower from here easily, assuming the Fed holds its course. If the Fed does decide to pivot, it would be a different story - but for now, with the Fed holding course, I think it is inevitable that our markets run into a brick wall, relatively soon.
I laid out my most recent game theory on the Fed’s current options - including whether it will pivot or not, and how it will react to the Bank of England restarting quantitative easing - in my article I wrote on Wednesday of this week:
One of the things that we talked about that I haven’t written about is the trouble that U.S. pension funds could be in.
The Bank of England intervention this week was a result of pension funds potentially having a “Lehman Moment”. Reports noted that pension plans overseas were hastily selling bonds to try and meet margin calls, a scenario that I am certain we are not far off from here in the U.S.:
Pension schemes had been selling gilts to meet emergency collateral calls or reduce exposure, pensions advisers said.
"There are schemes running out of cash at the moment," one pensions consultant said before the BoE intervention.
From FT, here’s what scared the BoE straight:
“At some point this morning I was worried this was the beginning of the end,” said a senior London-based banker, adding that at one point on Wednesday morning there were no buyers of long-dated UK gilts. “It was not quite a Lehman moment. But it got close.”
I told Jason yesterday that I don’t think the United States is far off. All I have been reading over the last five years is how pension funds here (1) can’t meet their targets despite the market ripping and (2) were taking on leverage, managed by their obviously unqualified CIOs, to try and deploy the world’s worst carry trade and play catch-up/generate more yield.
The fact that these funds were unable to post the returns that they needed during arguably the most euphoric bull market in history is extremely concerning. When conditions get worse for poor managers like these, like they are now, the capital destruction could be devastating.