What's happened to the metaphorical three-legged stool of comfortable retirement? It seems that not one of its legs is without a wobble: Defined benefit pensions have all but vanished, Social Security will start experiencing shortfalls about the same time the number of retiring baby boomers reaches its peak, and private savings in defined contribution plans are subject to the vagaries of markets and the economy. No wonder that a recent National Institute of Retirement Security study found that 85 percent of Americans are worried about whether they'll be able to retire.

In this regard, state government workers have always been particularly fortunate. The mainstay of their retirement has been a usually generous defined benefit retirement system that both they and their employers contributed to. Sometimes they supplemented this with defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s or personal savings. But now those defined benefit plans are becoming such a burden to the states and municipalities that fund them, they may not be there for many future public-sector retirees.

The latest evidence of this comes from Moody's Investors Services. In a report released late last month, Moody's found that though some state pensions are doing just fine, several of them are in even more trouble than originally thought. Using a new methodology that it says achieves greater transparency and comparability, Moody's ranks a state's adjusted net pension liability by calculating the ratio of ANPL to governmental revenues. The result finds 10 states — Illinois, Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey, Hawaii, Louisiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maryland — with an ANPL ratio of more than 100 percent.

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