STRS Ohio recognizes that the recent stock market volatility may be unsettling for some of our members. STRS Ohio is a long-term investor with a diversified asset mix and understands that significant short-term market fluctuations will occur periodically. After reaching an all-time high as recently as Feb. 19, the U.S. stock market suffered its worst month since October 2008. While a partial recovery has followed, financial markets around the world are still weighing the long-term impact of the COVID-19 virus, as well as the medical news that is being updated on a daily basis.
Unless the markets recover meaningfully before the end of June, this will be the first fiscal year with a negative return for STRS Ohio's total fund since 2009. In the 10-year period following fiscal 2009, STRS Ohio’s total fund return was a very strong +10.44% per year (annualized). These evolving economic and market cycles are a primary reason the Retirement Board maintains a broadly diversified asset mix. The asset mix is intended to achieve the long-term rate of return objectives of the fund (meeting the fund’s actuarial assumed rate of return over moving 30-year periods) with an acceptable level of risk. STRS Ohio’s investment portfolio includes a mix of U.S. and international stocks, along with liquidity reserves, bonds, real estate and alternative investments.
STRS Ohio recognizes that during market conditions like we’re experiencing, it’s not always possible to earn the fund’s actuarial assumed rate of return each fiscal year, but we also know during times like these it’s just as important to actively manage the assets. That’s why STRS Ohio investment managers are carefully monitoring the system’s portfolio and managing the funds to be sure we have the liquidity necessary to pay benefits each month and to identify and take advantage of market opportunities as we move forward.
STRS Ohio manages about 70% of assets in-house and has been recognized in CEM Benchmarking’s latest report for having an efficient, low-cost investment program with strong results. Likewise, our investment consultant, Callan LLC, reported that STRS Ohio’s investment returns for the 10-year period ending June 30, 2019, ranked in the top 10% of Callan’s public fund sponsor database for the three-, five-, seven- and 10-year periods and exceeded the STRS Ohio total fund benchmark returns for each of those time periods. These reports confirm that STRS Ohio retirement funds are in good hands. And this benefits not just the active and retired members of STRS Ohio, but the state of Ohio as a whole, because public pension dollars provide stability during tough economic times like these. STRS Ohio paid about $7 billion in benefits during fiscal year 2019, most of which go to Ohio residents and are spent in our state.
We believe the near-term prospects for the financial markets depend on how the pandemic progresses and how policymakers and society respond to its evolution. But as we look ahead as long-term investors, we also believe the aid being provided by policymakers to avert a continued downward economic spiral will also be supportive to future economic growth when the pandemic subsides.