LAGERS' Executive Director and I attended the annual conference of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA) last week. This conference gathers together the leaders of the largest public pension plans in America. Attending allows us to hear ideas about how to better serve our members and gain insight into best practices in the retirement industry.
One of the most popular segments of the conference is the "Roll Call." This is a time when one leader from each pension plan has a few minutes to give a quick update on their plan, share anything they are particularly proud of, or discuss any challenges they are facing. It is an opportunity to learn how your plan stacks up to other plans around the country. I always come away with new ideas about how we can improve but also with the realization that LAGERS is getting a lot of things right.
So, how does LAGERS stack up to other pension plans in the U.S? Here is a summary of the categories discussed during the roll call and how LAGERS compares.
Many plans discussed legislative challenges they are facing. Whether it be restrictive statutory requirements, strained relations with policymakers, or attempts to reform their plans, there is no shortage of legislative hurdles for pension plans. But the news isn't all bad. Some plans, like LAGERS, had positive news to report on the legislative front. We were able to get a bill passed and signed by the governor in 2019 that extends age 55 normal retirement to eligible EMS, dispatchers and jailers.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, "a goal without a plan is a wish." LAGERS, like many other public pension plans, has recently crafted or updated its strategic plan. LAGERS' three-year plan is based on our values and driven by our vision of a secure retirement for all. The plan has four main strategic focuses: funding sustainability, stakeholder service and outreach, staffing, and technology. Within each of these components, LAGERS has identified tactics and actions to ensure we are always moving forward to make things better for our members.
Technology issues for pension plans center around expanding online member services and cyber security. One of the goals in LAGERS' strategic plan is to increase the number of members using our online portal, myLAGERS, each year. We believe this is a great tool for your retirement planning and it helps us stay in touch with you. If you haven't signed up for an online account yet, do it today!
LAGERS works very hard to protect your personal information. Cyber security is a key focus for pension plans and will continue to be as the bad guys show no signs of slowing down their efforts of stealing money and information.
LAGERS is one of the most financially stable pension plans in the country with a pre-funded percentage of 94.9%. There are only a handful of statewide pension plans with a better funding level than LAGERS and the average of all plans is 72.1%.
LAGERS is very proud of the growth in the number of participating employers we have experienced in the last 12 months. This is proof that defined benefit public pension plans cannot only survive, but thrive. In the last year, the number of participating employers has grown from 716 to 762. Nearly all of these new employers switched from a defined contribution plan to LAGERS’ defined benefit plan.
Overall we learned that LAGERS stacks up well to even the largest pension plans in the U.S. We brought back many ideas for improvement and shared some of our ideas with other plans on how they can improve. We also walked away with an overwhelming reminder of the importance of the work that is being done by public pension administrators all over the country. The responsibility of providing secure retirements to millions of Americans is not one that is being taken lightly. As LAGERS' membership continues to grow, the responsibility grows as well. But the commitment to each one of our members will remain the same.