Pensions Beyond Pay

Among the more detailed features of the RIOpenGov.org pension page is the comparison of pensions against final average salaries. A push of the button on the “detailed search” tab shows there to be 3,298 pensioners whose retirements are paying better than their jobs ever did.

These retirees are collecting $20,903,314 more from the state than they did in the final years of their careers. On average, they have been retired for 18 years and still have an estimated 13 years to go — having retired at 56. For all retirees, the corresponding averages are 13 years retired, with 15 to go, having retired at 58.

Interestingly, the number of pensions above pay does not match up with the number of years retired as well as one would expect. Apart from a huge burst of retirements in the early ’90s, the trend line for total retirements isn’t surprising; the farther from retirement pensioners get, the fewer of them there are:

 

Viewing pensions that exceed pay as a percentage of total pensions, however, yields a more unexpected result:

 

As a matter of simple arithmetic, it would make more sense for the percentage to continue to grow as the years go up, thanks to cost of living adjustments (COLAs).  That the result does not match expectations merits further investigation, but for the time being, suffice it to say that such peculiarities give some credence to suggestions that pension deals of the past were inordinately generous and should be pulled back.

Among retired public-sector workers whose pensions exceed their working salaries, the average pension is $45,815 per year, which is $6,338 more than the average final salary. For the pension system overall, the average is $31,388, which is $12,021 less than the average final salary.

At this point, it makes sense to look at differences in the results based on the retirees’ former employers, and clearly, not all pension-granting public entities are equal. Of the 184 public employers, 81 have retirees who have surpassed their salaries. For 43 of the employers, more than 10% of all retirees are in this group.

% of Retirees Exceeding Salaries
Overall # of Pensions
Overall Average Pension ($)
Foster School Dist.
47
19
40,962
Burrillville Police Dept.
33
9
28,660
Northern Rhode Island Collaborative (NC)
33
6
16,222
Barrington Public Schools
28
202
42,651
Warwick School Dept.
26
980
44,598
North Providence Hsg. Auth.
25
4
22,592
Cumberland School Dept.
22
334
43,614
Middletown Public Schools
22
242
42,334
Newport School Dept.
21
363
41,593
Johnston School Dept.
21
215
43,505
Coventry Public Schools
21
325
47,098
Cranston School Dept.
20
769
44,425
Lincoln School Dept.
19
193
45,148
Providence School Dept.
19
1361
41,604
North Smithfield School Dept.
19
116
41,529
Pawtucket School Dept.
19
632
43,330
Tiverton School Dept.
18
161
41,322
East Providence Schools
17
479
45,030
Scituate School Dept.
17
100
41,365
West Warwick School Dept.
16
275
45,431
Foster/Glocester Reg. School Dist.
16
104
39,093
Woonsocket School Dept.
16
469
42,289
Central Falls Collaborative
16
166
44,896
Portsmouth School Dept.
16
211
43,065
North Kingstown School Dept.
16
307
41,183
Little Compton School Dept.
15
27
38,233
North Providence School Dept.
15
251
46,787
Glocester School Dist.
15
41
38,173
South Kingstown School Dept.
14
230
40,237
Coventry Fire Dist.
14
7
33,822
Town of North Smithfield
14
14
15,970
Chariho Regional School Dist.
14
248
40,728
Bristol Warren Reg. School Dist.
14
296
41,421
EAST GREENWICH-COLA-NC
13
15
17,591
North Smithfield Police Dept.
13
15
26,427
East Greenwich School Dept.
13
175
41,045
Burrillville School Dept.
13
158
42,284
Cranston Police
13
8
41,956
Westerly School Dept. (NC)
13
8
13,585
Westerly School Dept.
12
217
43,149
State
12
10,945
27,139
City of Pawtucket
11
105
20,739
Smithfield School Dept.
11
173
41,023
City of Woonsocket
9
65
22,746
Newport School Dept. (NC)
9
171
16,049
Jamestown School Dept. (NC)
9
23
12,951
Narragansett School Dept.
8
123
40,643
Town of South Kingstown
8
25
25,559
Warren Police Dept.
8
25
24,693
Narragansett Bay Commission
8
38
19,563
EAST GREENWICH-COLA
7
14
29,504
Jamestown School Dept.
6
31
41,140
City of Cranston
6
79
17,879
Town of Scituate
6
16
14,945
Exeter/West Greenwich Reg. Schools
5
75
39,039
Town of Johnston
5
38
19,537
East Providence Schools (NC)
5
304
15,041
Central Falls School Dist. (NC)
5
42
11,350
East Greenwich Police Dept.
5
22
32,698
Middletown Public Schools (NC)
5
22
18,716
R.I. Airport Corporation
5
22
43,537
Glocester School Dist. (NC)
4
23
9,698
Town of Warren
4
46
10,211
Newport Housing Auth.
4
26
21,796
Bristol Warren Reg. School Dist. (NC)
4
79
12,882
North Providence Fire Dept.
4
55
29,392
Johnston School Dept. (NC)
3
149
11,802
North Kingstown Police Dept.
3
30
33,592
Cranston School Dept. (NC)
3
418
12,929
South Kingstown School Dept. (NC)
3
117
12,226
Scituate School Dept. (NC)
2
41
10,525
Tiverton School Dept. (NC)
2
45
8,570
Chariho Regional School Dist. (NC)
2
47
14,184
Woonsocket Police Dept.
2
52
32,490
City of East Providence
2
62
27,958
Pawtucket School Dept. (NC)
2
377
10,952
Cumberland School Dept. (NC)
2
127
8,359
Town of Bristol
1
70
12,936
North Kingstown School Dept. (NC)
1
160
10,849
Woonsocket School Dept. (NC)
1
257
9,536
Town of North Providence
1
132
8,424

Notes:
“NC” indicates school personnel who receive municipal, rather than teacher, pensions.
“Overall” data is for all pensions, whether or not they exceed final average salary.

 

With some notable exceptions, schools in general and teaching staffs in particular dominate the list for retirees who make more in retirement than while working. And teacher pensions tend toward the higher end of the dollar scale.  However, there is no apparent correlation between the percentage of retirees over-earning their working salaries and the average number of years that each entity’s pensioners have been retired:

 

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