Not so modest: Pension benefits for full-career state government employees

Article Highlights

  • Are state governments creating "pension millionaires"?

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  • Full-career public employees are among the highest-income retirees in their states.

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  • 23 states pay government retirees $750,000 or more in lifetime retirement benefits.

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City and state governments around the country are pursuing reforms to address the rising costs of public employee pension plans. In response, public employee unions and pension plans themselves often portray these benefits as “modest.” In reality, public pension plans offer long-term government workers benefits that make them among the best-off retirees in the country. Indeed, the average full-career government worker in eight states retires as a “pension millionaire,” with 23 states paying $750,000 or more in lifetime retirement benefits. Drastic benefit reductions for current retirees would be unfair, but reforms that make public- and private-sector pensions more comparable should be on the table.

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