Monthly Archives: August 2016

August Article Roundup

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Here are some interesting retirement and industry related blogs and news stories we’ve found this month.

We marketers at LAGERS often discuss how we can get our message to our millennial member audience. The younger portion of our member base just doesn’t seem to pay as much attention to us. Unfortunately, this is the best time for them to think about their retirement goals. This article is a good indication of how this group feels about saving for retirement. Turns out, they’re a bit intimidated by the whole process.

Read “Most Millennials View Retirement Savings Goal as Impossible” here

Millennials, learn from your elders! This next post opens with the line, “The biggest regret those of us in our 50s and 60s have about our later years is not having planned early enough for our retirement years.” Then follows with four more pre- and post-retirement mistakes that all of us can avoid if we take the time to plan and prepare.

Read “5 Retirement Mistakes to Avoid” here

Did you know that life expectancy increases by 2-3 years every decade?  It’s typical for adults now to live well into their 90’s, and today’s children easily expect to live to 100! This is great, right? Well, yes, but it poses new challenges for your retirement plan. If 70 is the new 60, how do we plan to live 30 years in retirement? Be sure to also check out the related reading, Retirement planning in 3 steps.”

Read “How to Retire If You’re Going to Live to 100” here

This article from Benefits Pro gives us a peek behind the curtain at what industry experts see as the main causes for concern among those trying to plan for retirement.  The process can be intimidating and seem complicated to the average person, but with patience and education industry professionals can guide even the most confused person through the process towards a successful retirement. After all, “Rocket science isn’t rocket science to a rocket scientist, but it is to everyone else.”

Read “3 General Concerns that Thwart Retirement Saving” here

Another industry article we want to make you aware of comes from Gary Findlay, former Executive Director of the Missouri State Employees Retirement System (MOSERS) right here in our home state. It’s important that all of us are aware of the anti–pension / Defined Benefit critics and their arguments against our pension systems. In any financial endeavor, there are risks, and therefore, fears. Overcoming those fears and educating our members  so that all of us can take up the fight is the best way to combat the naysayers.

Read “Overcoming Fear, part 1” here

Read “Overcoming Fear, part 2” here

 

3 Things I Learned From Being a Firefighter for a Day

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Recently I was able to be a firefighter for a day. Well, not really a full-blown firefighter, but I did have the opportunity to participate in a Fire Ops 101, which is basically a slightly more timid, highly controlled training day for people who realistically have never even operated a fire extinguisher.

This particular Fire Ops 101 was a joint effort between the Lee’s Summit IAFF Local 2195 and the City of Lee’s Summit Fire Department.  According to the International Association of Firefighters website, “[Fire Ops 101 is an event that] exposes participants to the smoke, the adrenaline rush, and the physical stress and strain fire fighters and emergency medical personnel face while protecting communities . . .” Let me tell you, this is an accurate description.  Here are some of the things I took away from this awesome experience.

You have to move quickly, all the time.

I wouldn’t describe the entire day as a full-blown sprint, but it did seem as if I was participating in seven hours of interval training. Short periods of moderate to intense physical activity followed by short periods of rest, but we were always moving quickly. Frankly, we had to in order to keep up with the real firefighters. Just walking between the training stations was a small workout because I wasn’t used to wearing the gear.

The first thing I noticed about the gear was the weight. The firefighter responsible for our team told us that by the end of the day our shoulders and necks would be sore just from the weight of the jacket and helmet. Yep, he was right. So if just walking around at a quick pace is difficult for a newbie in all this gear, moving at a quick pace through the training evolutions was much harder.

Firefighters take care of each other.

The firefighter that was leading my team constantly had his head on a swivel. He was always checking and double-checking to make sure his team was whole. Even when we were just standing 28081090671_e28ea26c0e_h (2)around drinking water, he made sure we were all together. Once, one of our teammates was separated from us for a few seconds after a water break. Our leader noticed immediately, while the rest of us simply continued to the next training evolution. “Wait, hold up,” he said. “We’re missing someone.” After the tardy teammate rejoined the group, I asked our leader about his protective mentality. I wanted to know if this was just something he was doing for that day or if there was something deeper at play, which I suspected was the case.

“As firefighters, we are never alone, like never,” he said. “It’s not safe to be alone. Even at the fire house if we’re in a room by ourselves it’s a little weird because it never happens. We’re trained to do everything at least in tandem to keep each other safe.”

Physical strength and stamina are key.

I consider myself a reasonably fit guy but I soon found out during Fire Ops that my workouts had nothing on the functional strength and stamina required to do the job of a firefighter. One thing the firefighters continually stressed throughout the day was that there was no fire, we didn’t need to push ourselves as hard as they would because we were not dealing with a life or death situation. But I wasn’t there to play dress-up, I was there to just get a little taste of their world. I was first to volunteer for everything and I pushed as hard as possible. I really wanted the full experience.

But it was hard. The tools are heavy, the boots are heavy, the helmet is heavy, and the air pack is VERY heavy. And, let’s be honest, I was just playing dress up. There was no fire. There were no consequences if I didn’t move fast enough or if I was too rough dragging the “victim” (150 lb. dummy) from the smoking building. I had no mental stress worrying about what would happen if I placed my foot in the wrong spot causing the floor to give way below me. But for the firefighters, there are real consequences if things go wrong. They have to be physically and mentally prepared to minimize the risk of mistakes that could get someone killed.

Possibly the greatest thing I took away from the Fire Ops was an admiration for how much pride these men and women have in serving their community. They truly have a calling and are acting on it every day. These firefighters really care about the citizens they serve and they take their responsibilities very seriously.  They train hard so they can be ready to answer the call, to save lives, to keep us safe. I have always had a great respect for the firefighter profession, now I have a much deeper appreciation for what they do for us.

Jeff Kempker Manager of Member Services

Jeff Kempker
Manager of Member Services

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WHY I CHOSE LAGERS – A CAREER TRANSITION

I am so happy to be a part of this team. After about 15 years in media and advertising, I was ready for a change. I was ready to get back to my roots as a communications professional. Since my most recent experience was in digital media, I felt myself getting further and further away from aspects of my career that I had loved in the past:

Service to others and working with people out in the field

The creative process and the bigger picture

Writing, designing and conceptualizing solutions

While I am grateful for the experiences I had in the rapidly changing worlds of social and digital media, I wanted to be able to once again use my skills as a trainer, public speaker and integrated communications expert. I also wanted to bring my digital, social and content marketing skills to an industry that posed challenging potential for growth in these areas. Getting back to work in all forms of media, including traditional, disruptive and emerging media was also important to me. Being a communications specialist at LAGERS allows me to meet these goals.

As many may know, a career in media and advertising can be pretty “dog-eat-dog.” There can be high burnout and turnover. At the beginning of my career I spent some time as a local government worker in public information, and as a state of Missouri communications professional. It felt right for my family and my career to transition back into that type of role. Enter LAGERS.

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Other than what I have mentioned above, here are some other reasons why I feel fortunate to be a part of this organization:

  1. I get to provide valuable service in the form of education to people who serve the communities they live in. It’s no secret that public sector workers typically do not get paid as well as some in the private sector, and the people who work in public service to their communities deserve to be recognized for keeping things together. I am happy to assist these valuable unsung heroes in understanding the services that LAGERS provides by giving them a secure retirement income.
  2. We provide local government employees with a very well deserved benefit. Pensions are seen in the private sector as a dying breed of financial security, a benefit from the Mad Men era that private companies no longer provide to even the most dedicated employees. In my very short time at LAGERS, I’ve met many people who have worked at their organizations for 30, sometimes even 40+ years. How often to you see that type of dedication in the private sector these days? It deserves to be rewarded with a dignified exit from the workforce for the hard work and dedication these people give to their communities. (For more stories on the dedication of these workers, visit our YouTube channel.)
  3. Internally speaking, something that intrigued me from the interview process was that the people I met continually said the same thing, which was “this is a GREAT place to work,” usually followed by “people don’t normally leave, they just stay till retirement.” I take this as a sign of a good organizational culture, where people are valued, cultivated to grow their careers and given good benefits that make them want to stay. This is a very dedicated group of people.
  4. LAGERS product is sound and secure – despite what you may hear. In this age where more people are entering retirement than ever before, and less are financially prepared to spend the next 30 years of life in retirement, having an opportunity for secure income in retirement – for life – is appealing to say the least. After learning more about the LAGERS system, I realized that a lot of the adversity in the media to traditional pensions just doesn’t hold water. At least not ours.
  5. The team I’ve joined is not your traditional stuffy old-school communications department (no offense to my other communications colleagues, but y’all know what I’m talking about). They work collaboratively to try and keep us on the forefront of new ideas and ways to communicate to our members and the general public. Just check out our social media and content marketing presence if you don’t believe me.

Another personal thing that working for LAGERS is doing for me – my husband and I have mostly worked in the private sector for the majority of our careers, and planning for retirement was always his responsibility, or as I like to call it, “his department.” Let me tell you as a professional in this industry, that is not the way to go. Working for LAGERS has introduced me to a new industry that is exciting, interesting and ever-changing in its own right, and being a part of this organization is forcing me to pay attention to things that I have notoriously neglected over the years. As I am educating others on the importance of planning for the future, I’m learning quite a bit about it myself.

New to LAGERS Monthly Reporting? Here’s some tips to get you started!

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So, you just started working at your employer as the person repsponsible for payroll, bill paying, human resources or all of the above. You may have come from a position that doesn’t have a retirement plan like LAGERS, which can make our reporting processes seem difficult.  So, here are some pointers about our monthly reporting process and why some of the processes are the way they are.

First and foremost,  it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with the LAGERS system. LAGERS may be unlike what you’re used to because it is a defined benefit plan. If you came from a place that only had a defined contribution (401k) plan, the nature of the information we need gathered may seem a little off kilter. That’s because with a defined benefit plan like LAGERS, the benefit is based on a person’s compensation and service. There is no account balance that drives the benefit. With that said, here are a few pointers to help you out with the monthly reporting process.

  • Who is covered by LAGERS? When joining  the LAGERS system, each employer elects an annual hours designation for coverage purposes. The employer can elect coverage as an employee working 1,500, 1,250, or 1,000 hours on a rolling calendar annual basis. Any person working the coverage hours or more must be covered under the LAGERS system and does not have the individual option to not participate.
  • How do I report a new hire? Any new employee who is going to be working in a covered position must have an enrollment completed on ECLIPSE (LAGERS online reporting tool) as soon as they are hired. Enrollments are completed online. However, you can use the paper enrollment form for your internal purposes.
  • What is the free 6 month period? Every new employee that you hire may be eligible for the free 6 month period where no employee or employer contributions are due.
    • If the new employee has never previously worked for a LAGERS employer, they will receive a free 6 month period.
    • If they took a refund or lump sum of a previous LAGERS benefit, they will receive a free 6 month period.
    • If the employee has previously fulfilled their free 6 month period with another LAGERS employer(s), you will begin employee and employer contributions immediately.
    • The ECLIPSE system will monitor the free six month period and will show you when contributions will be due on the employee’s behalf.
  • Completing your monthly wage report. Here are few things to know about completing your monthly wage report.
    • The report is due on the 12th of the following month. You will receive an e-mail notification in the last week of the month.
    • You must report total gross wages including elected deferrals. Also included in reported wages is any paid overtime, recurring bonuses, sick or vacation time used, and allowances. Any non-recurring lump sums (vacation payout at termination) are not included.
    • You need to report wages on a when paid basis, not when earned. For example, if your employer paid two paychecks in the month of August, you will report the total of the two paychecks paid in the month of August for the August wage report, regardless of when the wages were earned.
    • When employees transfer between the General and Public Safety (Police / Fire) department, you must terminate them from the General Department and enroll them in their new department.

Monthly reporting is an incredibly valuable and important task. It is certainly not our expectation that you know every inner working of the LAGERS system. However, I hope this blog gives you some tips and pointers that can help you navigate this new responsibility. As always, if you have questions, feel free to contact us!

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Jeff Pabst, CRC Senior Communications Specialist

The Silver Tsunami is Upon Us. Is Your Organization Ready?

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There is a phenomenon occurring right now in this country known as the “Silver Tsunami.” The Baby Boomers, those born between 1946-1964, are exiting the workforce in droves, taking with them decades of knowledge and experience.  While this is affecting all sectors of our economy, the government workforce is on average older than the private sector and will be hit especially hard by this transition.  At LAGERS, we too are feeling this shift in the tide. When I started at LAGERS 12 years ago, we were hosting nine pre-retirement seminars per year.  Next year we are planning to host 34 seminars in order to accommodate all of our members closing in on retirement.  In 2004, the year I joined LAGERS, we saw 898 members retire.  Last year, that number had ballooned to 1,698.

Attracting quality people to work for local government will be a priority for Missouri’s political subdivisions in the coming years.  It will become vitally important for government leaders to examine the way they attract talent to fill the void the Boomers will be leaving. This issue is on the radar for many government leaders in Missouri.  I have had discussions recently with many management teams about using their LAGERS pension as a tool to attract and retain a quality workforce.  One such meeting centered around using the Rule of 80 to help lure young people.  Another entity spoke to me about how they believe LAGERS benefits will help them recruit replacements as their current employees retire.  So how are local governments to approach this wave of workforce change?  I have compiled some tips from various sources to help address the great opportunities ahead.

Governments may need to adjust their culture.

Elizabeth Kellar is the President and CEO of the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and deputy executive director of the International City/County Management Association.  She has been examining this issue closely and says that governments may need to adjust the culture of their work environment to make the structure more attractive to younger workers.  In a June 21, 2016 article by Kellar on Governing.com, she writes “Perhaps the most important commitment is for governments to become learning organizations. To fill many positions, governments not only must seek qualified applicants from the outside and market themselves, but they also need to be prepared to bring back retirees to work on projects and to mentor young talent.”

As Kellar put it, Millennials, those born between 1980–1996, “are ambitious and eager to build their skills and expertise quickly.”  Because of this, they often seek to learn from a progressive and forward-thinking employer.  Millennials are also concerned with making a difference in the world and respond well to public service opportunities.  Governments would be wise to emphasize public service and community enhancement when targeting younger workers.

Knowledge transfer will be a key component of this transition.

Experienced workers are valuable.  They know all of the best ways to complete a job without having to look at a manual.  I spoke with a spouse of a LAGERS member at a recent pre-retirement seminar who was attending in place of her husband who was busy training both people who were replacing him when he retired!  Rodney Bourne, the General Manager of Rolla Municipal Utilities, uses a simple story to illustrate the value of experience. He said that if you ask an inexperienced utility worker where the water lines are, he would say that they are in the ground.  But an experienced worker will be able to tell you the exact location of all the water lines throughout town, without looking at a map or diagram.

Local governments will need to find ways for these experienced employees to effectively transfer knowledge to their replacements before they retire so time is not wasted constantly sifting through policies and procedures.  Mentoring and phased-retirement programs may be a couple of ways to accomplish this.

Promote benefits using language that connects with the younger generation.

One sentiment I hear over and over again from government management teams is the concern that they are unable to attract quality people with salaries that can compete with those found in the private sector.  However, they do believe they can use a total compensation approach that emphasizes benefits.  One key weapon that LAGERS-participating employers have at their disposal is a well-run defined benefit pension plan, something that is very rare these days in the private sector.  The key is to promote the pension using language that will resonate with the younger crowd.  A young job-seeker may not be all that interested in a “pension” but they most likely would respond well to “secure monthly lifetime income during retirement.”  Another term that resonates with people of all ages, but especially Millennials is “financial independence.”  Who wouldn’t want benefits that promote peace of mind and security?

The upcoming transition of seeing Baby Boomers off into retirement and welcoming the next generation of workers is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.  But it can be planned for and, if handled appropriately, can propel government organizations toward future success by focusing on culture, effectively transferring knowledge and talking about benefits the right way.

 

Jeff Kempker Manager of Member Services

Jeff Kempker
Manager of Member Services

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