Diane, our pension expert benefits officer at LAGERS, retired last week after over 40 years in the pension industry. I was able to ask her a few questions about her career in the industry and how working to serve to local government employees of Missouri made a difference in her life.Tell us a bit about you…Your background, education, work experience. I started working in the pension industry with the Missouri Public School Retirement System (PSRS/PEERS) in 1979 and completed 30+ years of service. I started in the Records Department –filing, opening and processing daily mail, and basic data entry. I then moved to the Benefits Department— I learned a lot and began counseling members on retirement. It didn’t take long for me to notice the importance of a retirement plan – members were retiring at a younger age with good benefits. I started to pay attention! Most of what I have counseled I have actually done myself through my own career. I purchased credit by rolling money from our 457 deferred compensation plan to increase my pension benefit. I returned to work after my first retirement at a new employer - LAGERS.
Why did you decide to go into this line of work? Total accident – I was looking for a job and heard about my first pension industry position. I had never heard of a defined benefit plan until then.What are some of your favorite memories throughout your career? The BEST part of my job and probably the most important part of my job has been visiting with members. I have counseled many retirees (I wish I knew how many!!). It’s so rewarding to know that I have been a part of the retirement process for many retirees. There are so many things to consider and retirement is one of the most important decisions to make. I’ve always told them – don’t hesitate to call with any questions, and I'd say, “You will likely only retire once – we do it every day!!”
I remember at PSRS/PEERS (my first pension industry experience) when we began retirement counseling sessions (now seminars)—we loaded up member files, basic retirement forms, and calculators and traveled to different parts of the state. We met with members one-on-one and calculated benefits for them.Why did you decide to come work for LAGERS? I was eligible for retirement from PSRS/PEERS with 30+ years of service and heard of the position with LAGERS. Who wouldn’t want to receive a monthly retirement benefit AND a paycheck - and, more importantly, I love the job!!.
What are some of the most difficult parts of this job, and also some of the most rewarding parts of your career? The most rewarding – again, is knowing that I was able to help retirees make one of the most important decisions of their life. I like to hear back from them after retirement – to see what they are doing – some have returned to work, some travel, some have taken up new hobbies, some have moved to warm places. It's always good to hear from them!
The most difficult part of my job is not having all the answers. Everyone has different life stories – a retirement plan that works for one may not work for others! I tell them I wish I had a crystal ball on my desk so I could tell them exactly what plan will work best for them.
What are your plans for after you retire? What are you most excited about and what are you most apprehensive about? I am most excited about TIME – time to spend with my family, time to do a little traveling and time to take care of ME. This will be a big life-change which may be hard for me –but it’s time for me to "Practice what I Preach!!" I tell all my retirees – it will all work out ---- IT ALWAYS DOES! And I haven’t had anyone complain or tell me any different! No regrets!
If you could tell the rest of us one thing about what it’s like to work for a pension like LAGERS what would it be? Working for a pension plan is VERY rewarding! My last day was bittersweet. While I’m so excited to join the retirement world, it’s really hard to leave this LAGERS family!! I’m truly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people and I will be forever grateful.