A promise broken. Is your pension at risk?

Nov 16, 2018

10pm FRONTLINE -  a documentary series exploring news investigations into complex and often controversial subjects.  THE PENSION GAMBLE - State governments and Wall Street lead America's public pensions into a $4 trillion hole.

Frontline investigates the role of state governments and Wall Street in driving America’s public pensions into a multi-trillion-dollar hole. Marcela Gaviria, Martin Smith, and Nick Verbitsky go inside the volatile fight over pensions playing out in Kentucky, and examine the broader consequences for teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees everywhere.


Teachers, firefighters, police and other government workers in states across America are facing a retirement crisis. Half of all states haven’t saved enough to pay the benefits they promised through public pensions. The bill — now in the trillions — is starting to come due. 


FRONTLINE: The Pension Gamble
Credit PBS

For more than a century, public workers accepted lower salaries on the promise of a safety net later in life. When their pension funds were flush with cash, some states cut back on payments. Then came the dot-com crash, the 2008 recession and state budget shortfalls, and those states suddenly found their pensions deep in the red. As a result, some retirees are already seeing smaller monthly checks and current employees and new hires may see their pensions slashed further. Nationwide, public pensions are roughly 70 percent funded, falling below what national standards consider to be healthy. Since the recession, states have been scrambling to fix the problem — mostly by passing the shortfall on to their employees. Find out what states are doing to bridge the pension funding gap.