Buffett on Pensions
Mar 6, 2014
In the Berkshire Hathaway letter to shareholders dated Feb 28, 2014, Warren Buffet included the following commentary regarding the "pitfalls of pension promises".
Start of excerpt from Buffett Letter (page 21)
Local and state financial problems are accelerating, in large part because public entities promised pensions they couldn’t afford. Citizens and public officials typically under-appreciated the gigantic financial tapeworm that was born when promises were made that conflicted with a willingness to fund them. Unfortunately, pension mathematics today remain a mystery to most Americans.
Investment policies, as well, play an important role in these problems. In 1975, I wrote a memo to Katharine Graham, then chairman of The Washington Post Company, about the pitfalls of pension promises and the importance of investment policy. That memo is reproduced on pages 118 - 136.
During the next decade, you will read a lot of news – bad news – about public pension plans. I hope my memo is helpful to you in understanding the necessity for prompt remedial action where problems exist.
End of excerpt from Buffett Letter
I find it interesting that Mr Buffett would choose to place this warning in his letter to shareholders at this point in time. I find it especially interesting because of the sentence highlighted in blue. This sentence is exactly what has happened to create USAPonzi. Washington has now made a total of $81.9 Trillion of social benefit promises without funding any of these promises. Mr. Buffett's last sentence, highlighted in green, is a generic comment to all public entities but I hope that Washington will take heed.
I think Mr. Buffett is sending a warning shot to Washington.
Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter February 28, 2014
The Buffett tutorial on pensions is 19 pages long and as you can see was created on a typewriter. While this tutorial starts on page 118 of the Shareholder letter it starts on page 120 of this PDF. If you go to the scroll control bar and type in 120 in the page number and press enter you can bring up the start of the pension tutorial.
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