Goodness gracious, we’ve bid farewell to yet another year. I can’t believe I’ve become one of those, but time truly does go by so fast. This summer marked my 25th year serving LAGERS and our members. Wow. Seems like just yesterday I was learning the ropes myself and so eager to start my career. I burned up the roadways traveling the state to meet members, employers and others. Flip a switch and here we are 25 years later – and I think I love what we do more than ever.
So how are we doing? We’re knocking it out of the park! Our total system funding level remains rock solid at 94.9%. This strong funding ratio ranks LAGERS in the top 10% of all public pension plans not only in Missouri, but across the entire nation. System investment performance continued strong as well with LAGERS’ portfolio returning 7.1% (net of all fees) for the one year period ending June 30, 2019.
So what’s the key to success? Superior plan design, passion, commitment and planning. We never lose sight of our purpose – to be the best, most efficient tool our employers and communities can have to attract and retain the skilled, motivated workers needed to make our communities the safest and best communities possible – for our citizens and families. And a great “Thank You” to our members for working so incredibly hard to do just that.
Missouri LAGERS is a multi-employer plan and joining is optional for local government agencies within the state. Each employer may then tailor and adjust benefit levels to best suit their needs to attract employees. Eligible agencies continue to seek the security of LAGERS as we welcomed 43 new employers during the fiscal year that ended June 30th. That brings our total membership to 758 employers strong – all of which are making their required contributions each and every month – driving forward our 94.9% funding!
LAGERS passed legislation in 2019 that allows local government agencies within third class counties the option to elect to define EMS, Jailors and Dispatchers as ‘public safety’ for LAGERS retirement purposes. This bill was proposed as an option for all counties but ultimately passed with only third class counties; and LAGERS is hopeful it will be expanded to include all counties in the future.
In the coming 2020 legislative session, LAGERS will be proposing new legislation to widen flexibility to employers regarding employee contributions. Currently employers have an option of either requiring 4% or 0% employee contributions. Legislation being proposed would widen those options to 0, 2, 4 or 6% - allowing greater flexibility to tailor benefit levels to best suit communities. Be sure and view the LAGERS website for more information on legislative and all other activities.
And speaking of our communities, here’s another fact you may not believe: Last year your LAGERS system paid out $333 million to our valued retirees! Ninety-three percent of all retirees - and their retirement income – stay in their local Missouri communities. So $309 million worth of steady income continues to flow into our local economies, further supporting and building our communities!
We continue to strive to provide additional education and support to all members. In 2019 we not only again increased the number of seminars, meetings, webinars and on-line training; but we also unveiled new educational efforts to help support and engage our valuable younger workers – who are the future of our communities. That campaign includes on-site "LAGERS Lunch Break" meetings where individuals learn about the value of their pension benefit and how to prepare for financial independence in a relaxed and informal environment. LAGERS has also increased efforts to better support early/mid-career individuals to demonstrate how much their employers value them and are investing in their future.
LAGERS has never been an organization that is content on simply administering benefits. We continue to push to be the best public pension system in the U.S. while maintaining keen focus on serving our members each and every day. We “get” who we work for and why. We firmly believe and support that everyone who works hard should have a secure retirement. And we take that to heart.
Our members work so hard for our communities. And we’re so proud to work hard in support of that effort. On behalf of everyone at LAGERS, we wish you the absolute best for 2020!