US Public Pension Plans: A View From 3,000 Feet

Balloon, Fly, Sky

 

LAGERS’ Assistant Executive Secretary, Bob Wilson, recently attended and spoke at the Annual Conference of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.  When he returned, he spoke about his experience, takeaways, and the overall status of public pensions from a national perspective.

 

1.  What was the overall theme of the conference?

The theme of the conference “Taking the Long View” was positive, proactive and forward-thinking.

 

2.  What is the overall feeling as to the status of public pensions in the US?

Pension system representatives are very optimistic about the future, given that we all can see the real numbers relating to the plans.  Nearly all plans have weathered the storm of the 2008 market crisis and have rebounded nicely.  In addition, all plans took an even harder look at their plan design and many made fine tuning adjustments to ensure integrity and sustainability. I am proud to note that the LAGERS’ excellent plan design and commitment to efficient operation did not necessitate any plan modifications.  We’re getting it right!  The system, representing over 660 employers, is 92% pre-funded and ensuring best service to our members, employers, taxpayers, and communities.  We continue to monitor every aspect of our operation to ensure effectiveness.

 

3.  Anything happening on a national level that has an impact on Missouri?

The biggest issue on a national and local level remains the need for education.  Many of the people that can have an influence on pension plans do not understand the complexity and value of these plans as systems that can be used to attract and retain quality workers, and then provide an efficient means of exit from the workforce.

Keith Brainard, Director of Research for NASRA, reported that pension costs for many plans are stabilizing and the pace of pension reforms has slowed sharply.  Meeting investment return assumptions remains a concern in order to provide attainable retirement security. But I believe this concern actually highlights the need for defined benefit plans, which are more efficient, more stable, and more cost effective than individual investing.

The need for retirement income solutions for all workers, public and private, is being recognized nationally.   Workers must have a sustainable financial mechanism that provides retirement income in order to avoid slipping into poverty during retirement and being forced to rely on government aid to survive.

 

4.  What session at the meeting that had the biggest impact on you?

The senior staff workshop was the most helpful for me. The time was spent with system representatives from all over the country discussing challenges, ideas, brainstorming, and sharing the most effective solutions to issues we all face.  I came home with many ideas of how we can serve our members even better!

 

5.  Any action items for LAGERS as a result of the conference?

Absolutely!  Several systems shared applications for more efficient means of educating members and techniques for making communications even better.  Also, I networked with a number of system staff on improving practices for educating legislators and other stakeholders on the value of public servants and their economic impact as retirees within communities.

 

6.  Talk a little about your session and the feedback you received.

I was asked to speak regarding critical communications relating to targeting stakeholders, branding and social media.  I discussed effective ways of sharing information regarding our commitment to our members and communities as a partnership.  It’s vitally important we get the facts out about how public pensions are self-sustaining building blocks within the communities.  We also discussed effective means of sharing the statistics of LAGERS’ effectiveness.

 

7.  Anything else you feeling like mentioning?

The conference was a great reaffirmation that while we are committed to improving every day, LAGERS is a model showcase for doing things right.  I’m very proud of our system!

 

 

Robert Wilson, Asst. Executive Secretary

Robert Wilson, Asst. Executive Secretary

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