How Long Do Retired Public Employees Live?

Actuarial study focuses on mortality rates for teachers, safety professionals, and general employees.

Teachers live the longest, with general public employees the next, and safety personnel come in last. That’s the result of a study by the Society of Actuaries, which created the first mortality tables that track the life expectancies of public pensioners.

After reviewing 46 million life-years and 580,000 deaths from 78 public plans and 35 public pension systems in the US between 2008 and 2013, the actuaries found that teachers have the longest life expectancy at age 87.7 in men, 90.03 for women. General employees live an average of 85.49 (male) and 88.48 (female), while safety professionals usually die at ages 85.27 (male) and 87.68 (female).

These numbers also mean larger pension obligations for teachers’ pension plan officials.

The society’s tables also noted that a higher income may link to lower mortality. According to the data, income beat job category as the top mortality factor.

“People who participate in higher-income plans are often associated to having some sort of health and wellness benefits, and that leads to better access at times to care,” Dale Hall, the society’s managing director, told CIO, adding that those with more disposable income allows for greater flexibility in case of an emergency as well as the ability to lead healthier lifestyles.

The study was conducted after the organization saw a difference in mortality levels during its review of private pensions.

“We wanted to provide new updated mortality information specifically for public retirement plans that then actuaries and the plan sponsors could use to assess what the funded status and what the liability in the plan can be given the variety of assumptions,” Hall said.  

For these expectations to be met, a plan typically has a yearly evaluation where the actuary working with the plan sponsor, looking at such items as mortality and mortality improvement, investment assumptions, inflation, and others. Said Hall, “It helps shed some light on another data point that people could look at to help those assumptions.”

Since the financial impact of the table’s conclusions will vary based on job category, the Society of Actuaries said it “encourages professionals in the field to perform their own analysis” to understand them and what it means for each plan and/or pension system’s funding status.

“This is hopefully a helpful piece of information that allows a state to assess its liability again and set assumptions including mortality in conjunction with a lot of other things to see what the current liability will be and, in turn, that probably helps them make funding decisions,” said Hall.

Tags: , , , ,