PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Retirement System's assets have grown to an all-time high after earning 12.4 percent on investments through the first seven months of the financial year, an official said Monday.

The system's assets peaked at about $8.2 billion in 2007 and then plummeted during the national recession, but those assets have now grown to more than $8.5 billion. That's up from $7.8 billion at the start of the financial year July 1, a gain of roughly $700 million after taking into account investment gains and benefits paid to retirees.

"We've worked our way back, but it was a hard road," said Rob Wylie, executive director of the Retirement System, noting that the system had some big losses and big gains in some recent years.

Wylie said the system is now about 98 percent funded, which puts it in much better shape than most similar pension plans in the nation. That means its assets are about 98 percent of the value of all potential future benefits to be paid to retirees in state and local agencies.

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