We had a great time at this year’s Annual Meeting in St. Louis! Special thanks to the 230 members, employers, and guests who attended this year! In case you missed it, we wanted to share a few of the highlights from the sessions that stretched over the two-day event. And don’t forget, all of the materials from the meeting are available on our website.
Generally, the Annual Meeting is held each year so that members and employers can come together to elect their Board of Trustees. Because there were no vacancies on the board this year, hence no elections, this year’s focus centered on member education, communication, and outreach.
We kicked off with sessions covering LAGERS basics as well as the Disability and Survivors benefits that all members are covered under. Attendees learned about how LAGERS benefits are calculated using a benefit formula, and also how to ballpark a benefit by calculating a replacement ratio. For example, a member who believes he is going to work for 20 years for his employer and who is covered at the L-6, 2.0% plan, could ballpark a future benefit by taking 20 years x .02 = 40%. This quick and simple calculation can tell you how much of your pre-retirement salary will be replaced by your LAGERS benefit at retirement (40% in this example) and can be an important tool to use when determining how much personal savings an individual should be accumulating. After all, your LAGERS benefit was never designed to be your sole source of income!
Attendees also had the opportunity to learn more about disability and survivor benefits, which are often forgotten benefits in LAGERS. All members are covered by these lifetime benefits which can potentially be payable to a disabled member, or to a spouse (or dependent children) in the event of both duty related and non-duty related deaths or disability. Remembering to include these benefits in your financial plan as well as future employment decisions is important!
We closed the first day with a presentation on communication from Tripp Frohlichstein. Tripp has traveled worldwide to train thousands of people in corporations, associations, government and non-profit organizations in message development, working with the media, handling a crisis, giving presentations and communicating more effectively. Attendees learned about the importance of having a “home base,” or a core message. LAGERS members shouldn’t be afraid to tell others that their pension system is getting it right and is working well for its members, employers and Missouri’s taxpayers!
The second day of the meeting focused on updating the membership on the state of the LAGERS system. LAGERS Executive Director, Keith Hughes, started off the day with a State of the System address. The past year has been an outstanding year for LAGERS with a system funding status improving to 94.4% pre-funded, and a majority of employer rates decreasing or remaining level in 2016. Keith attributes much of LAGERS success to strong plan design, good governance, and a dedicated staff that is focused solely on the membership. LAGERS staff was truly humbled to be named Plansponsor of the Year for 2015 and continues to work every day to serve our members.
Brian Collett, LAGERS’ Chief Investment Officer, presented the investment performance report next. Brian discussed LAGERS’ returns, with a one year return of 2.2%, and discussed the importance and value of being long-term investors, noting LAGERS’ 10, 20, and 30 year returns of 7.7%, 8.7% and 9.5%, respectively. Brian also discussed a few of LAGERS investment strategies that individual investors could also apply to their personal investments, which included increasing allocation into real assets.
Bob Wilson, LAGERS Assistant Executive Director, closed this year’s meeting by addressing the Legislative Report from 2015 as well as agenda for 2016. LAGERS pursued two pieces of legislation in 2015 with a focus on the ‘Local Plans’ bill which would allow employers to voluntarily pursue having LAGERS administer their existing frozen pension plan. While 2015 proved to be a challenging year politically, LAGERS is refocused and ready to take on both the Local Plans bill and the widening of Public safety Retirement Age bill again. Bob asked all members to help in any way they could to reach out to legislators to help get both pieces of legislation passed in 2016. Anyone wishing to get involved in helping can contact Bob by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
With another Annual Meeting behind us, LAGERS staff continues to be focused on ensuring that your retirement system is getting it right. As always, we are available as a resource for our membership and are more than happy to assist in any way possible. We look forward to working with our members throughout this next year and to seeing everyone at the University Plaza Hotel in Springfield for the 2016 Annual Meeting!