AUTHORS

Girard Miller the Public Money columnist for GOVERNING and a senior strategist at the PFM Group. He has 30 years of experience in public finance and investments as a former GASB board member, and Janus mutual funds and ICMA Retirement Corp president. He also authored 12 publications in the field, including "Investing Public Funds."

Girard Miller
February 1, 2014

Cash Balance Pension Plans

Crucial (and complicated) concepts in public money explained.
June 21, 2012

Farewell, My Readers

After five years as a Governing contributor, Girard Miller signs off.
June 21, 2012

Hybrid Treasury Bonds for Public Pension Funds

Federal-state collaboration could save taxpayers billions and help deter runaway inflation.
June 21, 2012

Pension Reforms Go to the Courts

What's next after California's recent landslide elections?
June 14, 2012

Public Pension Portfolios Double Down

A new study blames GASB policy for spurring state and local governments to make riskier investments.
June 7, 2012

COLA Freezes: Pension Reform's Third Rail

Here are 7 things to consider before cutting retirees' cost-of-living allowances.
May 17, 2012

"Say on Pay" for Public Pension Funds

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
May 3, 2012

Cash-Balance Pension Plans: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Defined-benefit fans tout this hybrid, but taxpayers need protections.
April 19, 2012

On Pension Reform, Trying to Fit a Square Peg in a Round Hole

Politicians can't fix pension abuses with voting rules alone.
April 19, 2012

Stable-Value Funds: Their Time Under Heaven

A homework assignment for 457 investors and administrators
April 12, 2012

Insolvency, Bankruptcy and Doublespeak

Don't plead poverty while soft-selling your bonds.
April 5, 2012

Retirement Reform II: Beyond the Easy Stuff

Essential and practical steps to take in 2012
April 5, 2012

Sovereign Immunity for Public Employers

The Supreme Court has reaffirmed certain states' rights in the workplace.
March 15, 2012

'New Normal' Budgeting for 2013

Tax revenues are up, but deferred costs are waiting to be paid.
March 8, 2012

Pension Reform: Stop Billing the Grandkids

Intergenerational equity in retirement plans is long overdue.
February 23, 2012

OPEB Made Easier

A new set of best practices for 'other post-employment benefits'
February 23, 2012

Bad News for Workers Comp Premiums

Low investment returns hamper self-insurance pools.
February 9, 2012

Jerry Brown's Plan for Comprehensive Pension Reform

The California governor's far-reaching proposal requires hybrid plans, equal employee cost-sharing and a constitutional amendment.
February 9, 2012

Could a Flatter Federal Tax Plan Actually Work?

A centrist plan with a progressive twist could be a bipartisan compromise. And it could help balance the budget.
January 19, 2012

One Pension Half-Truth That's Actually a Quarter-Truth

A closer look at how "interest follows principal" in pension funds
January 5, 2012

Pension Puffery

Here are 12 half-truths that deserve to be debunked in 2012.
December 15, 2011

GASB's New Hornet's Nest: 'Economic Condition' Reporting

Should financial projections be "required supplementary information"?
December 8, 2011

Rhode Island's Landmark Pension Reforms

In this column by Public Money author Girard Miller, he writes about how newly enacted pension reforms will test contract law.
December 8, 2011

California Court Vests Retirees' Medical Benefits

The decision sends the Orange County case back to federal court.
December 8, 2011

Will Pension Plans Run Out of Money?

A new research report using GASB proposed metrics reveals risks of "depletion."
November 30, 2011

Slaying the OPEB Dragon

Retiree medical costs can be tamed, but it requires effort. Some solutions are obvious, others are at the cutting edge of innovation.
November 10, 2011

Pension Prop 13

California’s pension hawks file a detailed, alternative plan to the governor's that builds on his proposals.
November 10, 2011

Benefits Bonds Revisited

Does it make sense to leverage pension and OPEB funds now?
November 3, 2011

California Throws Down the Gauntlet for Pension Reform

The scope of the governor's new plan surprises allies and critics.
November 3, 2011

The Coming GAAP Gap for Pensions

How closely will plan trustees follow GASB rules when they bill employers?
November 3, 2011

The Cost of Doing Nothing for OPEB

Actuaries should use lower, achievable interest rates when there is not a qualified trust fund.
October 20, 2011

Coming Soon: Truth in Pension Investment Projections

GASB disclosure rules could inject truth serum into pension projections.
October 13, 2011

Wake Up That Sleepy Money

Put your idle cash to work and eliminate unnecessary fees from your portfolio.
October 6, 2011

Health-Care Costs Surge

Insurance premiums jump 9 percent for family coverage.
October 6, 2011

National 'Save for Retirement' Week Starts October 16

Here are some valuable messages that employers can share with employees.
September 30, 2011

New Pension Accounting Rules Roll Out

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board released new rules that are expected to become final next year.
September 22, 2011

Investing in a Downturn: A History Lesson

What the research reveals on stocks, bonds and inflation.
September 22, 2011

Socialized Pension Losses for Everybody?

A new "Secure Choice" proposal is half-baked but could be salvaged.
September 8, 2011

Why and How to Restore the United States' AAA Rating

Inaction could wipe out all domestic programs in just 10 years.
September 8, 2011

Making Money in a Zero-Yield Market

Find the silver lining in 2011's low-rate world.
August 11, 2011

Bonds Trump Pensions in Rhode Island

A new law puts investors first -- to save the system.
August 11, 2011

Bring Back Volcker

President Obama needs a strong CFO, now.
August 11, 2011

Navigating the New Normal Economy

Even without a double-dip recession, it's a lost decade for state and local governments and their employees.
August 8, 2011

Deep Freeze for Salaries

Thanks to the pension crisis, the public-sector should prepare for a 'lost decade' of compensation correction.
August 8, 2011

Get Ready for GASB

Pension accounting changes should prod advance planning.
July 29, 2011

Sharing More Pension Data with Investors

Public employers will think twice about future benefit increases if laws require more disclosure.
July 21, 2011

Do Unions Really Spur More Pension Benefits?

A new study challenges common beliefs about public pensions and collective bargaining.
July 14, 2011

GASB Files for Divorce

Accounting standards are splitting away from pension funding policies.
July 7, 2011

Pension Reform: Hits and Misses

Big changes are under way in some locales, but some unions are holding out.
June 23, 2011

Use It or Lose It

How to clean up "accrued leave" without hosing taxpayers
June 23, 2011

Bond Lawyers Discuss Stronger Pension Disclosures

A National Association of Bond Lawyers discussion draft suggests 10-year projections.
June 16, 2011

Red-Light Losers

One city pulls the plug on intersection cameras after they fail to produce revenue.
June 16, 2011

Clarifying the View of Retirement Debt

An insightful report from Barclay's Capital sheds new light on pension obligations.
June 9, 2011

Pep Talk for Pension Reform

Viable, sensible, lasting solutions will require more efforts.
May 31, 2011

Taxing Municipal Bonds

A controversial plan to tax state and local debt could rob states and localities of millions.
May 19, 2011

Summing Up Public-Sector Pay

Study sheds new light on costs of public pensions.
May 19, 2011

Rethinking Disability Pensions

Federal tax incentives invite abuses.
May 12, 2011

Prepare to Fight for Itemized Deductions

State and local taxes deserve higher priority than mortgage interest.
May 5, 2011

No Guarantee for Retiree Medical Benefits

San Diego court finds OPEB promises are "not vested."
May 5, 2011

Muzzling Money Managers

Should trustees engage in blackball tactics?
April 21, 2011

Rx: Pay Less and Get Less

Narrow-network HMOs are the new cost-cutting tool.
April 14, 2011

Medicare Reform's OPEB Side Effects

Public employers need preemptive cost-control strategies.
April 14, 2011

Mandating Taxable Muni Bonds

Congress should not make all municipal debt taxable -- just provide the option.
April 7, 2011

Venture Forth, Ye Pension Funds!

Contrarian strategies should pay off.
April 7, 2011

Weighing Public Pay Scales

Let's put "total compensation" to the test — and into the law — to debunk the myths on both sides.
March 31, 2011

The Power of No

This is the time for state and local leaders to take a 'no new spending' pledge.
March 17, 2011

Pension Reformers Shift Focus to Current Employees

New tiers for new hires don't move the dial enough on trillion-dollar deficits.
March 17, 2011

The 'Pension Ponzi' Rap

Many still use Ponzi-like accounting, but pension funds are not Ponzi schemes.
March 3, 2011

Union Rights and Pension Laws

State-level ceilings make the most sense.
February 17, 2011

Poor Pension Math

Despite public pension lobbyists' claims to the contrary, here's the true cost of pension plans to taxpayers.
February 10, 2011

The Power of No

This is the time for leaders to take a bipartisan 'no new spending' pledge.
February 3, 2011

Misplaced Pension Hysteria

The real monster is OPEB, not pensions
February 1, 2011

Curing a Health Care Cost Curve

With health care driving state spending, a focus on quality care could cut costs.
January 20, 2011

Pink Slips and Pension Red Ink

In California, it's "pension layoffs" vs. "pension attrition."
January 13, 2011

Are Build America Bonds Up for Grabs?

Let's fix the formula so everybody wins!
January 6, 2011

Re-Thinking Retirement 'Rights' for Public Employees

Vesting should not apply to future service.
January 6, 2011

Will 2011 Investment Markets Bail Out the Pension Funds?

Wall Street can't relieve budget-strapped public employers.
December 16, 2010

Labor-Relations Strategies to Cut Benefits Costs

Public managers need a game plan for 2011.
December 16, 2010

Cutting Health Insurance Costs

The president's new initiative on quality health care deserves support. So does tort reform.
December 2, 2010

For Pension Funds, a Smarter Application of the 'Risk-Free Discount Rate'

Financial economics should apply to labor relations, not accounting.
December 2, 2010

Post-Election Retirement Plan Reform

It's not so simple as switching to a 401(k).
November 17, 2010

69 Is The New 65

The President's commission faces up to longevity. When will pension funds?
November 10, 2010

Middle Ground for Social Security and Medicare Reform

Three meaningful reform ideas worth sending to the lame ducks in Congress.
November 4, 2010

How to Run a Pension Fund -- Without Running It Into the Ground

Government finance officers tell it like it is. Will politicians finally listen?
October 21, 2010

Bending the Medical-Cost Curve

Health-care reformers say it can be done. Girard Miller doubts it.
October 14, 2010

Social Security and Medicare Costs Runaway

An actuarial autopilot is necessary if Congress won't bite the bullet to control costs.
October 7, 2010

Rethinking Dysfunctional Pension Formulas

A team of researchers is rethinking the basis for calculating pensions.
October 1, 2010

Who Should Pay the Pension Bill?

As states face funding problems, retirees and employees will feel pressure to chip in.

Public Pensions Investing for Less

Many pension funds will cut their investment-return assumptions.
September 22, 2010

A Ginnie Mae "In Every Pot"

The White House's mortgage relief strategy to enable underwater homeowners to modify their current mortgages on more-favorable terms is too timid.
September 15, 2010

"Personal-izing" Social Security

Private accounts can work, but they're not for everyone.

Hybrid Vigor for Pension Evolution

A good option for new public employees is a "half & half" defined-benefit and defined-contribution plan.

Finding Safe Harbor from Pension Fraud

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board's pension disclosures could help CFOs sleep at night.

Last Call for the Retirement-Medical Gravy Train

Federal reimbursement for high-cost early retirees will begin soon.

The FICA Free-Lunch Crowd

Social Security reformers need a fair plan for the six million free-riders.

The Evils of Evergreen Contracts

The "miracle of compound interest" helped put Bell, Calif., in the doghouse.

Going to Bat for a VAT

Shifting the sales tax approach could solve Social Security and Medicare funding.

California's Latest Pay Plunder

Outrage over lavish salaries and pensions in Bell, California, could fire up reform in public compensation laws and practices.

Beware of Negative Growth

With yields low and fees high, "safe" funds used in deferred compensation plans may eat away at principal.

Pension Politics

Symbols and substance will clash in 2010 and beyond.

Going to Bat for a VAT

Tax solutions for Social Security and Medicare could also heal the states.

Bonds as Good as Gold

Federal credit guarantees for taxable state bonds would lift the economy.

Curbing Pension 'Pay to Play'

Under new SEC rules, placement agents won't be outlawed, but they will be regulated.

The Arbitration Game

In the New Normal economy, the rules of labor arbitration must change.

Benefits, Bankruptcy and Baloney

Chapter 9 doesn't work the same as Chapters "7-Eleven" and won't solve the pension-benefit crisis.

California's Down Payment on Pension Reform

Four workers unions wake up and smell the coffee.

Will the BOBs Window Reopen?

Several large employers might get a second chance at benefit obligation bonds.

Fixing Social Security and Medicare

States and localities have a stake in the new bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility.

The Other Pension Fix

Absent reforms for incumbents, a five-year salary freeze may be the best solution for skyrocketing pension costs.

Funding Retirement Benefits on $75 a Month

A multi-pronged approach can slash retiree medical costs.
June 1, 2010

Girard Miller's Benefit Beat

It happens like clockwork. As soon as a magnanimous stock market boosts pension assets to high-water marks, pension raiders lurk around--they can't wait to get their hands on the "overfunded" portfolio.
June 1, 2010

Wanted: A Gold Standard for Pensions

Public officials who run pension plans should update their rule books.

New Proposals for Pension Books

GASB's potential accounting rules may clobber employers' budgets

Needed: New Rules for Pension Boards

When it comes to governance, there's something amiss in California and other states as well.
May 13, 2010

Uncle, Can You Spare a Dime?

"Tough love" assistance from the feds might match the nation's mood.

California's Pension Predicament

Fixing the state's retirement finances is like untangling a Gordian knot.

Out of Balance, or Out of Proportion?

A new look at whether public employees are overpaid.

Rolling Back Benefits

In Vermont, pension reform gains momentum -- at the bargaining table.

A Facelift for Muni Bonds

Surprise! Your bond ratings just went up!

Setting a Gold Standard for Pensions

The Government Finance Officers Association has issued a list of best practices for public pensions. These measures should be adopted nationwide.

The Pension Tide Turns

Illinois and New Jersey legislators try a new tack on reform.

New Pension Math

Nationwide, public officials scramble to change new-hire benefits formulas.

Two New Looks at Investment Assumptions

Reviews of the way public pensions measure their ROI and account for liabilities could have a major impact on state and local budgets.

Build America Bonds Need a Push

As Congress debates extending BABs, it's time to weigh in with letters and phone calls.

California Pension Reform Crosswinds

California's pension-limitation ballot initiative hits a wall with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and prominent gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

'Life-swapping': The Case For and Against Longevity Swaps

Could U.S. pension plans reduce risk by importing an idea from Europe?

'Build America Bonds' Forever, or Nevermore?

The Obama administration supports extending them. But if Congress fails to act, we may see a blizzard of BABs this December.

Seeking Security for Retirement Funds

Pension-exchanges for IRAs and 401(k)s would strengthen President Obama's initiatives.
February 1, 2010

Furlough Fever

Are four-day workweeks the beginning of a permanent trend or a passing phenomenon?

California's $125 Million Middlemen

More evidence of influence-peddling in the Golden State's pension fund

Federal Incentives for Retirement Benefits Reform?

The case for a taxable 'benefits bonds' rebate

Could 'Build America Bonds' Be Extended After 2010?

The new subsidized taxable bond option has been highly successful.

2010 Retirement Reform Resolutions

Time for less finger-pointing and more action

2010 Pension Investment Outlook

For the coming year, here are some strategies - both 'inside the box' and 'outside the box.'

Looking Twice at Pension Double-Dipping

Should full pensions be allowed if you keep working?

New Retiree Benefits Scam: "Insurance Arbitrage"

Squirrelly insurance deals are too good to be true.

Mini-Medicare Proposal Could Solve Municipal Retiree Benefits Problems

Police, fire and teachers could use Medicare at 55, cutting localities' costs.

Employer-Paid Humbug!

Public employers can no longer afford to pay employees' share of pension costs.

The New Normal Economic Environment

Even in a post-recession economy, leaders must learn to say no.

Who Needs Placement Agents, Anyway?

There really is no place in the pension boardroom for mercenaries.

California's Dirty Little Withholding Secret

How the Golden State "borrows" money from taxpayers -- interest free.

Can the Bond Insurers Survive?

The "B" word shows up in earnings and news reports.

California Pensions' $65 Million Middleman

In the wake of a scandal, a ballot initiative to reform the state's pension system gains new fuel.

Private Pay, Public Pensions and Some Real Math

Let's replace ideology with compensation analytics.

In Search of a Fair Pension Formula

Realistic income-replacement ratios in the 'new normal' economy

Is Health Care Reform a Medicaid Torpedo?

States could get clobbered with new costs.

Generational Battle Brews Over Gilded Baby-Boom Pensions

Resentment is building among younger workers, and Boomer unionists face a backlash.

For Cash Managers, New Investment Risks

Inflation, rising interest rates and company defaults are among the perils.

Retirement Benefits and the Incumbent Employee Conundrum

Bill baby boomers for their retirement costs -- before they get away.

As Faith in the Almighty Dollar Erodes, There's Hope in TIPS

Inflation-indexed bonds are good for retirement plans as well as the U.S. dollar.

Putting a Price on Portfolio Safety

Is your attitude toward risk penny-wise and pound foolish?

States Can Lead in Health Care Cost-Cutting

Co-ops could change the economics of the industry.

'Mini Medicare' Reform Could Cut Retirement Health Benefit Costs

Could Medicare reform play a role in health care cost reduction in a way that actually benefits governments?

More on SEC's Pension 'Pay to Play' Reforms

Regulate, don't prohibit, qualified organizations.

A Game-Changer for Government Retirement Markets?

The next-gen target-date funds for 457 plans have lower fees and consistent returns.

Reflections on the S&P at 1000

It's time to revisit and rebalance investment allocations.

Obamacare and the States' Benefits Budgets

Congress can't repeal the laws of supply and demand.

Will SEC Ban Pension 'Pay to Play'?

Rules should also govern 457 and 403b plans.

Saving the Nest Egg

It's time to restore balance to the funding of pension plans.

Funding Phobias

States and cities have a lot of reasons for inaction on funding retiree medical benefits. Some of their excuses are pretty flimsy.

The Empire State's Looming Public Pension Explosion

Local pension costs may triple in New York State, meaning costs will outrun revenues, even when the recession ends.

Why No Pension Bonds?

How Build America Bonds have crowded out 'Benefits Bonds.'

Stimulus II: A Federalist Re-Employment Strategy

States and localities are key to economic recovery.

Bargaining for Benefits Reform

It's time to take a harder line on under-priced "bennies." Here's how.

New Premises for "Pension Prop 13"

Constitutional curbs for runaway public pension plans

Failing to Fund Retirement Benefits

The downside of "pay-as-you-go"

A Fiscal Fix? California's Dreamin'

Is the Golden State too big to fail?

Time to Drop DROPs

Alice-in-Wonderland math can't work for Deferred Option Retirement Plans.

Passing on Our Debts

GASB is looking at new rules for making sure we pay for services we use.

Medicare Trumps the 'OPEB Fairy'

National health care reform can't bail out state and local retiree health plans.

Build America Bonds Hit the Market

Are these new municipal bonds silver linings -- or fools' gold?

The OPEB Acid-test

Paralysis must yield to analysis -- soon.

The Pension Bonus Conundrum

You get what you pay for -- or don't.

Repairing Pension Plans

Reform -- don't destroy -- public retirement systems.

A New Way to Save an Apple a Day

A better voluntary savings vehicle for retiree health coverage

Seeking a Fix for 'Spiking'

Abuses of overtime in pension calculations

Stimulus Strings

Pay cuts for public officials who spend like grasshoppers?

Guarantees for Muni Bonds

Timely congressional action could double the infrastructure stimulus.

Public Pensions and Private Partners

A profitable role in curing the toxic asset problem?

The Insurance Exposure Problem

State and municipal deferred-compensation plans are at risk from the insurance-industry tumult. It's time for some due diligence.

To Build a Solid Benefit

How to ensure that retiree health coverage is ample, available and affordable.

Sharing the Pension Pain

It's time for employees to buck up.

Swapping the Stimulus

Will local substitutions boost the spend -- or drain it?

Getting Ready for Build America Bonds

There's a new tool for financial officials and managers to master.

Profiting from TRANs

How to make the most of short-term borrowing

Taking on the Sacred Cows

Michael Bloomberg's refreshing and realistic look at retirement math

OPEB's Silver Lining

Unlike with pension fund investments, nothing ventured means nothing lost.

Fixing OPEB Plans

Moving to a different format may be the answer.

Pension Funds to the Rescue?

Could public pensions help solve the banking and mortgage crises?

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!

State and local governments shouldn't wait for the White House and Congress to come up with the next stimulus package. They should draft a specific new proposal of their own.

A Dumb Idea: Tax-Exempt OPEB Bonds

They're a bad solution in search of a problem, and they won't stimulate anything.

Model Legislation: Retirement Plan Financial Management

Stronger laws would optimize OPEB plans and benefits bonds.

Top 12 Pension and Benefits Plan Issues for 2009: Part II

Six more new paradigms for a new year

Stimulus II: Guaranteeing Muni Bonds

Let's triple the infrastructure stimulus -- and put municipalities back to work.

The Taxable Muni Bond Debate

Is an "Infrastructure TBO" worth a try?

Outlook for Retirement Plan Investments

The retirement industry took a beating last year. But 2009 still provides some opportunities for the public sector.

Investing Public Cash in a 0% Market

Searching for incremental yields?

Bonding for Benefits: POBs and 'OPEB-OBs'

New strategies to shatter the old POB paradigm

Don't Squander the Stimulus!

How to prevent pork-barrel spending and bridges to nowhere

Investments and Markets

Public pension funds and retirement plan investors face a challenging year. Here are some key issues for the coming months, including investment return targets, sovereign funds, recession vs. correction, oil, interest rates, the Fed, muni bonds, alternative investments, China, the presidential election cycle and housing.

Benefits Plan Design & Strategies

2008's top topics regarding benefits plans
December 1, 2007

Fee Fight: Public Employees Have Hidden Costs in Their Investment Plans.

The lack of "fee transparency" in 401(k) plans has caught the attention of the U.S. Congress, which may require defined-contribution (DC) plan providers to disclose all service fees. That's because fees in public and private DC plans are seldom presented clearly.
October 1, 2007

Wellness--Or Else!

The latest buzzword in managing health care costs is "wellness"-- programs that emphasize prevention and personal accountability.
August 1, 2007

Pension Divestment Politics

State politicians have returned to the slippery slopes of social investing and pension divestment. In the 1980s, South Africa was the target. Last year, it was Sudan, followed quickly by Iran, and now "all terrorist nations" are on blacklists in some states.
April 1, 2007

Girard Miller's Benefit Beat: Bonding with OPEB

Some municipal bond underwriters are peddling the idea that public agencies should sell bonds now to "pre-fund" their promised retiree medical-benefit-plan liabilities.
February 1, 2007

Guest Quarter: Retirees and Realities

New Jersey's ill-fated pension reform plan is history. As 2006 drew to a close, the governor and legislature, hoping to pay for property-tax reduction through pension plan reforms, failed to come to an agreement--much to the relief of thousands of state workers, unionized and otherwise, who marched on Trenton to make known their concerns about benefit adjustments.