The next big area where accountants may contribute major solutions using expertise from courses for CPA preparation is public pension funds. Pension difficulties are not restricted to European economies, where pensions account for much of the government budget difficulties. In the US, many state and local pension obligations also present looming problems.
Young accountants looking for innovative career avenues are considering opportunities to utilize CPA review course information regarding pensions to improve understanding about financial conditions of state and local governments. These entities need more accounting assistance than ever because of new rules approved by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. The GASB is requiring governments to report significant pension-related liabilities on their balance sheets.
In the past, such elements were only reported in financial statement footnotes. The new mandate calls for accountants to provide skilled guidance from CPA study to governments. Pension concerns are mounting and full disclosure of the problem is a first step in starting discussions about reform.
According to one report, a gap of $859 billion exists between the committed liability and the funding of the nation’s one hundred largest pensions. Most of the troubled arrangements are state pension plans, which are further threatened by ongoing fiscal budget difficulties in those states.
Accountants are often not fully exposed to the nuances of governmental accounting until they pursue its depth for CPA exam courses. That knowledge is becoming increasingly valued. As actuaries determine the degree of funding needed to meet expected obligations, under-funding of 40 percent or more is estimated in the pension plans of nine states.
States that are making full actuarially determined annual contributions have still only funded 84 percent of their obligations on average. Meanwhile, states not making full annual contributions are only 72 percent funded.
The under-funded situations are primarily a consequence of investment losses. Since the beginning of this century, pension plans have experienced returns on investment far below expectations. This has occurred at a time when more employees of state and local governments plus teachers have become eligible for retirement benefits.
Unfunded liability can grow as a consequence of overly optimistic assumptions about investment growth, deferred pension payments, and the number of beneficiaries. Explaining the continued under-funding is an arising job for accountants. Fortunately, their training with CPA exam study and audit experience aids in performing this role. Certified Public Accountants who desire an involvement in government accounting – especially within some communities – certainly have substantial opportunities due to the financial issues surrounding pension plans.
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