This content is from: Corner Office

The 2013 Pension 40: Alicia Munnell

Alicia Munnell
Director, Center for
Retirement Research
Boston College

Alicia Munnell has pushed retirement income security for the U.S. workforce since founding the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College in 1997. Defending public defined benefit pensions through publications such as the CRR’s research reports and her latest book, State and Local Pensions: What Now?, Munnell seeks to separate fact from myth. For example, the Boston College management sciences professor has shown that public pensions face manageable challenges and that public sector unions aren’t to blame for pension shortfalls. Munnell, 70, also champions an idea that is anathema to conservative financial economists: Pension discount rates, the calculations used to determine the present value of future liabilities, don’t explain funding levels. Pension funding is a matter of creating a reasonable fiscal plan and sticking to it, she asserts. The New York native’s call for employees, retirees and taxpayers to compromise has earned her widespread respect. An expert on Social Security and pensions, Munnell — who holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and was a research analyst and director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston from 1973 to 1993 — co-founded the National Academy of Social Insurance in 1986. “We should get away from the notion of DB and DC and think about what characteristics we want them to have,” she says of new pension models.

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