Retirement age could rise to 70 and pension contributions increase to bridge funding gap
A massive shortfall in the Contributory Pension Fund could force the raising of the retirement age to 70 and increased payments into the scheme, the finance minister signalled today.
Curtis Dickinson told MPs that an actuarial review of the CPF’s performance between 2017-2020 had recommended major changes to stop it becoming “exhausted” in 2044 – three years earlier than predicted.
He said: “The CPF is the first pillar of retirement income and the benefits from this fund, together with other pensions, are important to the ongoing financial stability and security, as well as health, of the seniors in our society.
“Therefore, it is recognised that it is critical to ensure the long-term sustainability of this fund.”
Mr Dickinson added that the review called for contribution rates to increase at higher than four per cent a year more than benefit increases to get the fund back on track over the next few decades.
The review also backed an increase in the retirement age to 70 over a period of at least eight years.
The authors said a combination of the two – assuming that real rates of return remained steady – would extend the life of the fund past 2070.
Mr Dickinson said the number of contributors had declined from 35,889 in the year ending July 31 2017 to 34,629 in the year ending July 31 2020.
He added: “The contributory pension scheme plays an important role in Bermuda’s pension arrangements, providing a first tier or basic pension to more than 10,960 seniors and other beneficiaries, the majority of whom live in Bermuda.
“There are also disability pensions, and non-contributory benefits.
“The maximum benefit is currently about $1,500 per month. Altogether, some 14,050 persons currently receive benefits under the Act.”
He added: “The financial position of the fund over the three years was below expectations, mainly due to lower than expected contribution income.
“The viability of the fund in the short to medium term has decreased with the fund being able to cover at least 10.5 years of the current expenditure and being positive for the next 24 years.
“This compares to 11 years and 29 years respectively from the last valuation.”
Mr Dickinson added that, like other countries, Bermuda faced the problem of an ageing population.
Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, said he was looking at long term proposals to make the Government’s unfunded liability “substantially lower”
He told MPs that unfunded pension, and other employee obligations, stood at $1.75bn in March 2021 and was included in the net debt of $4.61bn.
Mr Dickinson was speaking as he was questioned by the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance.
For the Member of the Legislature and Ministerial Fund, the liability was $20.8m in March 2020 and $22.19m at the end of 2021.
For the Government Health Insurance Fund, it amounted to $779.39m in March 2020 and $841.55m twelve months later.
He said that changes to pension contributions and benefits could be made after consideration by the Pension Reform Committee.
He added that net assets of the CPF grew two per cent over the three years considered from $1.93 billion to $1.97 billion – seven per cent below the projected figure.
Mr Dickinson said: “It should be noted that the funding policy for the fund is not based on full actuarial funding, but based on sustainable funding.”
He added that to “improve the projected financial position of the fund in the long term the ministry will carefully consider alternate scenarios included in the report, in conjunction with the recommendations of Pension Reform Committee”.
Mr Dickinson said: “We are very sensitive to the challenges faced by our seniors and the ongoing struggles of many of our businesses.”