Last week, LAGERS members gathered in Jefferson City to take part in a very first for our retirement system - an Advocacy Day. An advocacy day is an opportunity for members from across our state to gather in the capitol to demonstrate a physical presence of our system and to visit with legislators about the value of their LAGERS benefit. We had a great time, visited with tons of legislators, and brought some serious pension energy to the capitol building!! Here are a few highlights from our day!
In my office, over the back of one of the chairs at a small conference table, hangs a precious gift I received from the Jefferson City Fire Department – an old firefighter coat that was worn and retired from service. Just an old, smoke-filled coat... that means so much more.
My colleague Penny and I recently spent some time in Rolla to honor one of our long-standing members, Rolla Municipal Utilities employee Rosalie Spencer, who was celebrating 50 years with the organization with a lunch reception. Around 70 of Rosalie's friends, family and coworkers present and past were on hand to celebrate her accomplishment. "When I started here, I told them if they hired me I wanted to stay until I retire. And I am." Rosalie plans to retire at the end of April of this year, and because she has stayed for 50 years should be able to replace a sizable amount of her salary with her LAGERS benefit.
You may be wondering why a LAGERS blog would focus on Developmental Disability Awareness. As all of us at LAGERS know, our members are exceptional people. They are "Salt of the Earth" people, people who make our communities flourish and shine. And among our member employers are "Senate Bill 40" agencies. Senate Bill 40 employers, named after the Senate Bill that established them, provide for the employment, residential, and related service needs for people with developmental disabilities in Missouri. LAGERS members who are employed by SB 40 employers are made up of social workers, case workers, administrators and others whose primary focus is to assist people with developmental disabilities in meeting their needs so they can gain more independence and inclusion within their communities. Not only are our Senate Bill 40 employees special to us and our communities, but so are the people they serve within our communities.
Reform has been the hot topic in the world of public employee retirement plans for years. Too often the conversation immediately turns to tossing out defined benefit pensions for government workers and replacing them with individual investment accounts like 401(k)s. Supporters of the 401(k) approach say these plans are a better fit for the modern worker; they are always fully funded; they give workers control over their own money; the public sector should follow the private sector's lead in eliminating pension plans. However, this thinking does not consider the uniqueness of public sector jobs, workers' lack of understanding of financial products, the impact on workers' retirement security, or the effect on the employer and taxpayers.
LAGERS retirees provide strength for their communities' economy by re-investing their hard-earned retirement benefits back into their communities. For example, in Boone County last year, there were 611 retirees who, combined with other LAGERS beneficiaries, received over 11 million dollars from LAGERS benefits. This income is used by retirees and their families to purchase goods and services within their community. This increases the assets and strength of local area businesses, who, in return, expand their businesses and employment opportunities. There is little doubt the bones of any community consist, in large part, of the businesses found within the community. LAGERS retirees provide the calcium for these bones by providing economic strength through their LAGERS benefits.
I recently read an article from the Washington Post which stated, “If you don’t want to run out of money in retirement, follow this rule of thumb.” So, of course I clicked into the article to see what kind of advice they had to give.
I spent some time last week visiting with LAGERS members at the Missouri Municipal League legislative conference. This event is a time for local government leaders from across the state to gather in our capital city to listen to and speak with other elected officials about the challenges and opportunities facing their local communities.
Local government service is not for everyone. It takes employees and officials who are willing to invest time in their community and deeply care about building quality of life. There are so many areas of life that local government touches – from streets to sewers, schools to streams, youth programs to public safety, community art to secure online services– the people who serve must invest time to learn about and address a wide variety of issues, all to make their community stronger.
To many, the market turmoil that hit stocks globally last week came out of nowhere. In the US, after almost two years of the stock market grinding its way higher, seemingly in defiance of gravity, the over 5% fall last week reminded us that what goes up must come down. In truth, we’ve been living in an investing world which isn’t normal. Falls in the market like the one experienced this February however, are entirely normal, and often healthy, for markets to experience.