You really can’t make this up.
Rather than admitting that they’ve spent years making the wrong assumptions, and underfunding the pensions of California public workers, CalPERS pension fund managers seem hell-bent on driving the fund off a cliff to save their jobs.
In the Wall Street Journal, Ben Meng, chief investment officer of Calpers, does his best to explain why the fund is taking on a load of leverage to fund its overpromised goals. He writes:
Yet even before the pandemic, we knew that our goal of achieving a risk-adjusted return of 7% would require addressing the market’s triple threat of low interest rates, high asset valuation and low economic growth. In late 2019 we mapped out an investment strategy to deliver sustainable results.
The solution is based on “better assets” and “more assets” and will capitalize on Calpers’s advantages: a long-term investment horizon and access to private asset classes.
Calpers must diversify and increase exposure to private assets, such as private equity and private credit. We refer to these as “better assets” because they have the potential for higher returns and lower expected volatility when compared with publicly traded assets.
“More assets” refers to a plan to use leverage, or borrowing, to increase the base of the assets generating returns in the portfolio. Leverage allows Calpers to take advantage of low interest rates by borrowing and using those funds to acquire assets with potentially higher returns.
This approach is not without risk. Private debt can reduce liquidity. Leverage can exacerbate some short-term volatility. But prudent use of leverage can reduce risk over time by allowing Calpers to keep more exposure in diversifying assets such as Treasury bonds, while pursuing higher returns in other parts of the portfolio.
In Mr. Meng’s view, better assets mean private equity that doesn’t have a believable quote/price, and more assets mean leverage. How could this go wrong?
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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