Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Inside Colorado PERA

Year in Review: Top Stories of 2020

It’s been an unusual year, to say the least. COVID-19 altered everything. The well-being of so many across the state, country, and world was at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. But readers of PERA On The Issues were also interested in how the global pandemic affected PERA. The top stories of 2020 were primarily about the ways in which PERA and the state legislature adapted to these new circumstances.

Amid Massive Budget Cuts, Joint Budget Committee Votes to Suspend Direct Distribution

In 2018, the state legislature instituted an annual payment from the state budget to PERA, called a direct distribution. This $225 million payment was an important piece of SB 18-200 and goes toward paying down PERA’s unfunded liability. However, by the end of March the economy was in rough shape. It was clear that budget writers would face a shortfall amounting to billions of dollars. As a result, the legislature paused the direct distribution for 2020 — part of a long list of emergency cuts throughout the state’s budget.

Polis Budget Plan Includes PERA Direct Distribution

Months after the legislature paused the direct distribution, Governor Polis released his budget proposal for 2021. In it, he indicated one of his priorities was to restore the direct distributions in full. The governor does not write the budget — that responsibility falls to the state legislature’s Joint Budget Committee. But his budget proposal helps set the tone as this process gets underway. Typically, the state legislature passes a budget in late March or early April before sending it to the governor for a signature.

PERA-related Legislation Sent to Governor

The direct distribution was not the only PERA-related measure the legislature passed in 2020. Other bills included:

  • A temporary change to the contributions judges make to PERA
  • Reclassifying state firefighters as safety officers
  • An expansion of working-after-retirement exemptions for certain employees hired by a board of cooperative services (BOCES).

PERA’s Chief Investment Officer Addresses Market Drop

Those who follow the stock market can sum up 2020 with one word: volatility. The end of March saw a sharp sell-off as stock prices plunged. The uptick that followed was nearly as swift as the initial drop. In the midst of this uncertainty, PERA’s Chief Investment Officer, Amy C. McGarrity, penned a letter addressing PERA’s strategy.

Change is Coming to PERA On The Issues

After nearly eight years in publication, PERA On The Issues received a makeover. The new site design contains updates to improve the reader experience. For example, stories now look better on mobile devices, which is important as nearly half all people read PERA On The Issues on their phones. Although the site looks a bit different, the types of stories this site covers remains the same.

As 2020 comes to a close, we’re thankful to all our readers for continuing to rely on PERA On The Issues. In an environment awash with options, this website’s readership continues to grow. We’ll continue following and unpacking the issues that matter to PERA’s many stakeholders like we’ve done for years. We’ll see you in 2021.

VolatilityVolatility of returns is the measurement used to define risk. It describes the variation of price of a financial instrument over time. The greater the volatility, the higher the risk.


  1. Barbara Kelly says:

    I would far prefer to see PERA On The Issues online rather than having a hard copy mailed to me.

  2. Mark says:

    I see that my health insurance is going up again for myself and one child. It will now cost more then my mortgage. I wish the cost of health insurance would be addressed and not just a talking point one someone’s agenda.

    • Chris Hawley says:

      You are absolutely correct. Healthcare is out of control in this country. I retired from Healthcare after 33 years and I am extremely frustrated with Insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and the government. I just finished reading The Healing of America by TR Reid. This was recommended by my Physician. I know that it won’t help your premiums but it sure helped me realize that we need change.

    • Lori Comer, M.A. says:

      I totally agree.

  3. Michaele G. Reddy says:

    Save paper! Email always. I like to read summations like this one.
    Thanks for the board for all their efforts.

  4. Ryan Christy, CFA says:

    Merry Christmas to all! Let’s do even better work for 2021. Colorado teachers deserve the best.

    For the members,

    Ryan Christy, CFA

  5. Phillip Kehl says:

    Not sure your off to a hot start. Rethink the title abbreviation with the small title on end. At first glance it reads POTIE. You pay people for this work?

  6. Linda Baggus says:

    I would like to have PERA divest from the oil and gas industry and get into the fast-growing alternative energy fields so that our investments grow instead of dropping drastically like my current PERA 401k funds have.

    • Fran Aguirre says:

      I totally agree with you, Linda. The writing is on the wall. PERA has lost $1 billion in fossil fuel investments over the last 10 years. California has lost even more with their investments in fossil fuels. The time is NOW to begin and complete this divestment!

  7. Phillip Kehl says:

    Let me just apologize for shooting from the hip again. Now I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happier New Year!

  8. Ryan Christy, CFA says:

    Remember, folks! Four board seats are available in January.

    Put your name in the hat and/or vote.

    Maxima Utilidad!

  9. William cox says:

    I have heard the new president is going to eliminate WIP. it cannot happen soon enough for me. I am losing 435.00 dollars from social security every month for 3 years now. I worked 2 jobs 7 days a week for 27 years to earn a decent retirement. please tell me this will end soon.

    • Daniel Cass says:

      Hello! Do you mean the WEP? The windfall elimination provision?
      I have thought for years that this was a very unfair measure! It is a state by state issue! How is it fair that some states have this and other’s do not? Either put this burden on everyone or take it away! It is a loss every month of a substantial amount of money especially if you are a retired senior and every dollar counts!
      I’ve heard that there is talk about the WEP being eliminated but I haven’t heard it from the president elect yet!
      Everyone that’s getting ripped off from this provision should step up and make their voices heard! Nothing will happen if everyone stays silent about it!

      • Gary says:

        Work 3 more years and when you get 30 substantial earning years you won’t see any reduction from either, as of now with 27 in ss you will have very little taken away as a penalty.

    • Fran Aguirre says:

      I agree WIP has got to go. Who will make this happen? I have lost approximately $400 per month for the last 18 years. Even with this amount, I would still be in the 99% while the top 1% continue to benefit so much more!
      Diana DeGette has “said: she wanted to get rid of the WIP at least 18 years ago. It still hasn’t happened!

    • Joe Laterra says:

      Critical for all retirees that paid Social security before or during their years with Pera. We earned the benefits and need them more now than ever.

    • Stephen Wheeler says:

      I hope this WIP comes to an end. It has hurt me badly, I need my money.

    • Jackie Snyder says:

      Started working in retail at 16. Worked for 28 years with that same retailer. Started with DPS and worked many years with both. Retired DPS with PERA. All those years in retail, paying into Social Security and only getting approximately 45% of what I should be getting is a shame. I pray the President Elect will right this wrong!!

    • Marti Stokes says:

      I have heard time and again that WEP is being looked at, but nothing is ever done. I am so close to 40 credits, but as a single person, not close enough as most of my years were under PERA. I’d also not heard that the new administration was going to eliminate this—but as with anything government, I’d have to see it to believe it. I just hope I live long enough to see it happen. Even a couple of hundred dollars (and I don’t know what it would actually be for me–haven’t looked into it yet), would help immensely. Everyone is right, it isn’t fair that SS denies us money we earned just because we get PERA. Thank the good Lord that PERA doesn’t also do that to us–then where would we be? Never able to retire I guess!
      On another note, I truly hope everyone has a blessed 2021. 2020 was so hard, and for me, Jan. 1 was heart-wrenching as I had to have my beloved 5-year old pug euthanized due to encephalitis that worsened the day after Christmas. That has nothing to do with PERA, I realize, it is just that my heart is hurting terribly. My wish for everyone with all the hatred, violence, divisiveness and so forth that we see, that we can look within, find some peace, and pay it forward–maybe pay for coffee at a drive-thru for the car behind you or just something to brighten someone else’s day. We never know what someone else is going through, my wish for you all reading this is that you find something good in each day, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a bird’s song, whatever. Thank you for your time.

  10. Pamela H. Cobb R.N. says:

    I worked 20 years in private hospitals as a RN and paid into social security. I then worked 25 years in a PERA hospital. 20 years of my savings have for the most part have been stolen from me. How do we organize a lobby demanding our social security. Social Security does. Not impact the state budget but puts more money into the state economy which is a win for the state.

  11. Diana Dempster Van Luven says:

  12. Karen Jones says:

    Why is it that those carrying pre-medicare health insurance continue to have increases (sometimes quite large) yet those that carry medicare coverage costs are going down? Can there not be a balance so pre-medicare clients are not burdened. Mine has increased nearly 25% in the past two years.

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi Karen,

      That’s a good question. In a health care plan designed for persons with Medicare, the costs for certain services are paid for by Medicare and the cost for other services are paid for by the health plan/consumer. On the consumer end, you might see a monthly premium staying steady or even going down, but that might be because more costs are borne by Medicare instead of the plan/consumer. On the other hand, a pre-Medicare plan does not have Medicare to help cover costs. All costs must be paid by the plan, and the price to the consumer reflects that.

      For example, we know that rising hospital costs are one of the biggest drivers to cost increase over the years. The way Medicare is set up, it covers much of the bill if a person is hospitalized. On the pre-Medicare side, that cost must be entirely covered by the plan/consumer. So while a person in a Medicare plan and a person in a pre-Medicare plan might go to the hospital and use identical services, the bills that end up going to the plan/consumer in each case would be different.

      Because one plan is specifically designed to work with Medicare, there is no way to combine these two different groups. While we know the rising cost of health care is a challenge everyone faces, you can look forward to turning 65 and taking advantage of Medicare plans from that point forward.

      • Marti S. says:

        I know this is a burden, but many of us reaching 65 have retired and our income is less, and PERA has decreased our COLA over the years from 3.5% years ago to now about 1.25%, basically nothing. That doesn’t even begin to keep up with the cost of living. Utilities go up, gas goes up, virtually everything else does; at the beginning of the year I think about every bill I get tells me an increase is coming. 1.25% COLA from PERA (if we even get that–for 2 years we didn’t get anything) makes it very difficult to pay the bills. Please understand, I fully get what you’re saying; pre-Medicare health costs are outrageous. But please also understand that for some of us, age-related conditions may (in my case) keep us from working full-time anymore, and my memory isn’t nearly as good as it was when I was working full-time at high stress jobs requiring high levels of accuracy. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t be able to do that. Medicare helps at least some. Thank you for letting me express my view–and again, I do understand your point.

  13. Ls says:

    We put in the years for both SS and PERA, why should we have be penalized and lose 1/2 our retirement pay because of this loophole?!!! Get rid of it

  14. lonnie glover says:

    I cannot retire due to health care costs and everyone I talk to says the same thing. Its time our government at all levels quit stealing money from our pockets to fund their retirements and come together to fight for the people they say they represent.

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