Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Inside Colorado Pera

Update on Operations from PERA’s Executive Director

Editor’s note: The dates mentioned in this story were updated on April 21 to reflect the most current information.

The emergence of COVID-19 has disrupted daily life around the world, including here in Colorado. There is much we still don’t know about this still-emerging pandemic. In a matter of days, we have all experienced sudden, extensive changes, the likes of which most of us have never experienced. These changes can be difficult to process. Most importantly, the concern about our health and the health of our friends and family weighs heavily for so many people.

The safety of our employees and our members is of upmost
importance to us here at PERA. To that end, I would like to share steps
Colorado PERA is taking to keep our employees and members safe and what you can
expect in the days ahead.

PERA Service Changes

Members will see some temporary changes in how we interact
with members. We plan to continue delivering a high level of service, answering
your questions and responding to your needs quickly. However, we are eliminating
in-person contact for a time as we do our part to stop the spread of this virus.
These PERA services will be available online and over the phone. Specifically:

  • In-person individual counseling session at our three office locations will be suspended until May 16. If you had an in-person counseling session already scheduled, a PERA Benefits Counselor will be reaching out to convert your appointment to either a telephone or online appointment.
  • PERA is suspending walk-in customer service. Members are still able to turn in forms at our office locations in Denver and Westminster.
  • PERA-hosted meetings occurring around the state have been canceled through May 16. Webinars that cover the same topics will continue to take place as scheduled.
  • Customer Service Representatives are available by calling 1-800-759-7372 Monday–Thursday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Mountain time).
  • Please note that benefit payments will not be disrupted.

Investment Operations

As PERA’s Chief Investment Officer, Amy C. McGarrity, noted a few weeks ago, we can’t predict what markets do, but we can—and do—incorporate risk into our investment decisions. In any given short-term period, the portfolio may perform better or worse than long-term expectations. However, we are confident that PERA is well positioned to continue to invest through the ups and downs of the market cycle, providing the opportunity to achieve our long-term goals.

Finally, we know that many PERA members are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. Instead of being asked to stay at home, thousands of public safety officers, health officials, and others will be asked to go into the storm. We’ve seen this before. Time and time again, we’ve seen those in public service rise to whatever challenge is placed before them. They go from being the unsung heroes of daily life to being a source of inspiration and strength that we all need right now. We are thankful for these, our fellow PERA members, and for all who are involved in responding to the challenges we now face. It will not be easy, but they will undoubtedly carry the day.

We appreciate your cooperation and patience during this emerging and evolving situation. We will continue to keep you informed about any additional PERA developments. I hope you and your family remain safe during these uncertain times.

-Ron Baker

Comments

  1. Jon Goldstein says:

    Thanks for the updste

  2. Bill says:

    Thank you.
    After “the Market” rebounds from covid, please revise investment portfolio to more fixed income than equities (i.e. if the portfolio has 55-60% equities and 30-35% fixed income, then after the Market rebounds, switch to 55-60% fixed income and only $30-35% equities) … our retirement and future investments should be more conservative.

    • Susan Musil says:

      I agree with Bill. It is very important our funds are protected with fixed equities. We haven’t had but one increase in several years because of the poor investments in the past.

  3. Barbara Bath says:

    Thank you for what you do. I appreciate your service.

  4. Cleola Spikes says:

    This was a great letter it was reassuring and let us know that we are not alone.

    • Nancy Moore says:

      After 2009 Pera cut all of pur cost of living increases because of such high losses in investments. So far this looks worse. i like William am afraid of losing my only income because of this financial detestation

  5. Dan Robinson says:

    Thanks for these reassuring comments. Besides naturally occurring health concerns, exacerbated by COVID 19, financial insecurity can compound worries. So we are counting on you.

  6. William Schlelein says:

    I’m sure we as well as all PERA retirees are wondering how secure our pensions are. Would you please explain how safe our only source of income is faring?

  7. Marilyn D. Mulay says:

    Thank you for the positive remarks regarding our benefits and investments during the COVID-19 outbreak. As a
    Retiree in PERA, I am confident in your leadership and appreciate your information addressing this emergency.

  8. Frank Patterson says:

    PERA will be my only source of income in 3 years. Due to not having the required years of service in SS I will be hit with a substantial loss from SS, making PERA my main source of income. Would you please explain how safe my main source of income will be please.

  9. DOROTHY M HORTON says:

    Thank you for the update!!!!

  10. Pamela McMillen says:

    Thank you ! My Pension is my only source of income, since Reagan inacted the Wellfare Elimination Act!
    Please try to encourage our Senators and Representatives to repeal this Act! Society Security is My money not government money! Government never contributed to this fund and I want my SS!!!
    Please talk to those in power and ask them to Act on this terribly unfair Act and get it Repealed!!!

  11. Kenneth Wood says:

    Thank you for who you are and what you do. We can’t that you enough for your service.

  12. Elisabeth Shippey says:

    Why isn’t PERA responding to Mr Schlelein’s question? It is foremost on our minds.

  13. GM SANTO says:

    Let’s cut to the chase Mr. Baker, what’s going to happen to our 1.25% July Annual Increase (A.I., a/k/a COLA)?

    That’s the $50,000,000.00 question! Fifty million dollars is 1.25% of the $4 Billion in benefits that PERA pays annually! I’m sure there are a lot of representatives looking for ways to divert that money to their cronies or fund corporate welfare, but who will tell them NO!

    Here are a few other questions:

    How does PERA know when a retired member has passed away (and when benefits should stop);

    Will PERA provide the monthly number of deaths of retirees;

    How does PERA calculate mortality tables, will they be updated & publicized to reflect the current pandemic;

    What has PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.) done to lobby elected federal representatives to repeal Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision (W.E.P.);

    &

    Additionally, when will PERA B.S. provide members a breakdown of every paid position of those who administer the PERA program (by job title, if not by actual name, and annual salary in terms of TOTAL COMPENSATION!)?

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      GM,

      The scheduled 1.25% annual increase is still in effect.

      PERA receives notifications when members pass away from a variety of sources, including family members who call in and data collected by the state. PERA publishes information about the statistics you mentioned every year in both the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and the Actuarial Valuation. The archive of these reports are located here: https://www.copera.org/investments/pera-financial-reports

      While PERA has a limited capability to change national legislation, we do meet with the Colorado Congressional Delegation to ensure they know how important a secure retirement is to members. You can read more about this issue here: https://peraontheissues.com/wep-gpo-the-case-for-reform/

  14. Mark says:

    Colorado Professional Fire Fighters President Mike Frainier can get his people more money and they lowered the retirement age for police and firefighters – all in the middle of the Corona Virus Pandemic. Who is fighting like this for educators?

    https://denver.cbslocal.com/2020/04/02/colorado-law-financial-protection-police-firefighters/

  15. Steven Hultin says:

    I recommend PERA consider and discuss a reduction in pension payments now to hedge against a potentially larger fiscal problem in the future. Possibly a sliding scale of reductions with the funds held in ‘escrow’ to payback if the pension’s fund remains health and on target.

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