Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

Recap of the PERA Board’s November 2021 meeting

The PERA Board's Governance Manual

The PERA Board of Trustees met for its last meeting of 2021 on Nov. 19. The Board heard updates from PERA staff and also discussed a number of important issues, several of which are summarized below.

2022 Board election

The Board approved the calendar for the 2022 Board election, when four Board seats will be up for election. They are:

  • Ramon Alvarado (State Division)
  • Ashley M. Smith (State Division)
  • Guillermo Barriga (School Division)
  • Cheryl Pattelli (Local Government Division)

Candidacy packets will be available for interested parties beginning in January, and the election will be held in May.

Member contribution interest rate

Every year, the PERA Board sets the interest rate paid on Defined Benefit (DB) Plan accounts. That interest rate is set at 3 percent for 2021 and is compounded annually.

If a PERA member leaves PERA-covered employment and requests a refund of their DB account, they receive their contributions and any applicable employer match plus the interest earned on that balance. If that member keeps their account with PERA, however, their balance will continue to accrue interest and the member will be eligible for a lifetime monthly benefit when they reach retirement eligibility.

After discussing the competitiveness of the interest rate and its effectiveness in encouraging members to keep their accounts with PERA, the Board voted to keep the interest rate at 3 percent for 2022.

Board Governance Manual update

As part of the regular review of its governance framework, the Board voted to approve a number of changes to its Governance Manual, which outlines policies and other guidelines for how the Board oversees PERA’s operations. Some of the updates were minor and involved updating wording to align with current Board practice. Others involved updating PERA’s mission and vision statements, which underwent review in 2020, and updating the Board’s standards of professional and ethical conduct.

The Governance Manual is available online here.

Legislative update

The Board also received an update on a draft bill calling for the legislature to make up its missed $225 million payment to PERA from 2020. That bill, which we covered previously here, passed Legislative Council review on Nov. 15, clearing the way for it to be introduced in the legislative session. Lawmakers are set to begin the regular session on Jan. 12, 2022. The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2022.

Comments

  1. Doug Knuffke says:

    Are we to expect a real cost of living raise in our retirement checks or are we expected to just suffer this inflation problem with no help from the state? The state has received huge payouts from the feds but we seem to be to forced to survive on a 1% or less increase, how is that fair to all of us who spent years of employment for the state ? Is PERA working for us on this issue ?

    • Sweetie Marbury says:

      I believe the COLA was set at a certain percentage rate for several years. Be patient. It will get better.

      • Lee Patton says:

        There never was a true COLA set for PERA recipients, and our annual “raise” has been below the rate of inflation for several years. Patience has nothing to do with it–it’s a policy of ultimate impoverishment. We must have our annual increase set by the Colorado Inflation Index. Getting 1% or 2% (or nothing) during a time of 5% inflation is going to be tough on many members.

        • Steve K says:

          I agree Lee. The last two “reforms” we suffered were supposed to be borne by 1/3rd employers, 1/3rd employees & 1/3 retirees.
          Retirees will take the lion share of the hit, at the current rate of inflation, in 10 years our purchasing power will be reduced by 50%. So yea, it is a policy of impoverishment, for us.

    • BC says:

      Exactly!

    • J C Ancell says:

      I agree. We were supportive of reduced increases and even suspended increases, but now we are being squeezed with no relief…how about some relief?

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi Doug, we recognize that the changes to the Annual Increase and contribution amounts have been difficult for everyone, but they help ensure current and future retirees can continue to count on PERA to provide a source of income in retirement they can’t outlive. The amount of the Annual Increase is set in statute and can adjust up or down based on PERA’s funding progress. You can learn more about the Annual Increase here: https://www.copera.org/retirees/annual-benefit-increases

      • Katmandu says:

        Pera retirees have been losing ground to inflation for years now, with little or no chance to ever gain back what we have lost under the current rules. When many of us retired, the Pera mission statement included a desire to maintain the standard of living of the retired members. I don’t recall when this was removed, but it is no longer included. The current limitations will doom us all to a continuous downward spiral unless rule changes occur.

  2. Ryan Christy, CFA says:

    Our teachers deserve more than 3% for their service. My opinion.

    Thankyourneighbor.com

  3. John Clark says:

    I agree the percentage should be higher but where would the mine come from to increase. We must trust the PERA people to manage the fund. PS anyone who closes their PERA account is an idiot

  4. Kj says:

    For us all working Pera is pounding our pay checks because the districts are not paying an increase in living! Or keeping up with the pay for these times! We are loosing money every year!

  5. John says:

    Maybe PERA should just come out and state that we are no longer a full retirement account anymore, just a one partial like Social Security.

  6. Don Deane says:

    Why is the DC contribution interest rate different (higher or lower) from PERA’s estimated long-term return on investment, less admin costs and maybe a risk offset? If it is higher, how can PERA cover the cost? If it is lower, what justifies the shortfall?

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi Don, interest is paid only on Defined Benefit (DB) accounts, not Defined Contribution (DC) accounts, which are subject only to investment gains/losses and any applicable employer match. The PERA Board sets the DB Plan interest rate based on a number of factors, including the competitiveness of the rate with the market and its effectiveness at keeping accounts with PERA until retirement eligibility, at which point a member can annuitize their account at PERA’s 7.25% assumed rate of return, or qualify for a monthly lifetime benefit based on their age, service credit, and salary. You can learn more about the defined benefit calculation here: https://www.copera.org/members/new-members/new-members-defined-benefit-plan/retirement-benefits

  7. Betty Spinuzzi says:

    Even though our investments through PERA earned a phenomenal 17.43% return and the state is swimming in money, PERA changed their “assumptions” triggering and “auto adjust” that increases state employee contributions and decreases our PERA Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) by 0.25%. W e have to have a new law to make the state honor the old law of contributing 225 million per year into our fund. Is there anyone, anywhere advocating for us? I want you to change your assumptions again because inflation is hitting people on a fixed income pretty hard right now. Shame on you PERA. You are not on our side.

  8. Phil Helms says:

    The 3% is not COLA, and it’s not return on investment. It’s the rate used when calculating interest for an account that is left with PERA if a member leaves state employment.

  9. Tom Williamson says:

    The current and impending inflation will be good for overall PERA health since working contributions will increases as salaries are increased over time. PERA retirees on the other hand will experience a reverse-compound effect of losing the inflation-adusted value of our defined benefit since the COLA will be 3-6% below the actual rate of inflation. It will not be sustainable over an extended period of time, but I wouldn’t expect the legislature to be motivated to change the COLA as it would be very unpopular with the vast majority of taxpayers that have no pension and resent the State pension system.

  10. James Sinnott says:

    Why should a PERA retiree only be able to work 110 days per year? A job that offers a needed service should not limit work days when the payment to PERA helps with the deficit. I have contacted my Senator and he stated the PERA board made this decision and wouldn’t be able to get it changed. This is an ignorant rule that needs to be changed…

    • Joe Hendrickson says:

      I agree. Given that school districts are having to cancel classes because of a lack of substitutes it would make sense, at least on a temporary trial basis, to allow retired teachers to sub, or fill positions that districts are not able to fill, by putting on hold the 110 day work limitation.

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