To understand why Fort Worth's pension system is such a financial disaster, look at one month's list of recent retirements.
In January, a 53-year-old policeman retired with an annual benefit of $90,312 for life, plus $256,000 in a lump sum payment. Another policeman, 57, got almost $74,000 annually, plus $313,000 in a lump sum. A 54-year-old firefighter got an annual pension of $90,130, plus $178,000 in cash.
These are not typical cases, but they're not rare, either. The shocking takeaway from the 22 retirees is that they stand to earn significantly more from their pensions than they earned on the job.
With an average age of 50 for the police and 54 for the firemen in this group, they're likely to spend more years in retirement than they worked. An analysis for the City Council, presented in July, projected that the retiring policemen would collect $3.1 million in pension pay.
That's a stunning number, almost twice as much as their career earnings, and it more than compensates for the fact that city employees don't get Social Security or a 401(k)-type account. It's worth stating again: In retirement, many will get more money than they made on the job, and for more years.
You don't have to be an actuary to know that this pension plan will end badly. The technical phrase is "trending toward insolvency."