Please don't post your comments more than once. I moderate all comments and a delay between posting and appearing is part of the drill here. I get to all comments in due time. Please don't continually repost the same comment. Only one will be posted. Thank you.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Thanks for all your efforts on your blog. Have been avidly reading it for months now, ever since the Oregonian bit on your blog.
Here's my gripe: No one seems to be dealing with the question of accurate estimates for people soon to retire. My husband plans to retire the end of this year, and in an effort to understand what we're dealing with, we've recalculated his account from 1982 forward to:
1. take into account what his account would have earned had it all been in regular,
2. 11.33% interest for 1999 rather than 20%,
3. 8% interest for the whole account in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (he switched over from 75% variable to 100% regular at the end of 2000), and
4. that his contributions for 2004 and 2005 went into IAP and not into PERS.
We then created a little table that figured out what the variable discount was (difference between the account all being regular and part being variable), multiplied Item 1 above by 2 and added to that the variable discount. Upshot of all this blather is that we think we actually have a fairly good idea of the amount of money that should be in his account by the end of 2005 and how much PERS will have total counting the money match to base a retirement figure on. BUT!! Because apparently the PERS Board hasn't authorized PERS to do all this stuff, we are still stuck with an online Benefit calculator that is basically useless. When we requested another estimate, we were told that our limit was reached and that we had to pay $60 for a new estimate, which, by the way will be figured out USING THE ONLINE BENEFIT CALCULATOR! As I pointed out to the PERS folks, is it right to limit us if our previous estimates were useless?
When I mentioned to a woman at PERS that it seemed like the only thing we could do is put in the retirement papers and if we didn't like the results, stop the retirement process, she seemed upset at the idea of that workaround, then said it would still only be an estimate based on the fact that changes have not yet been made to how they are making their calculations. Aaaaaggghhhhh!!!!!!! How is anyone supposed to be making a cogent decision with inadequate information? At one point, she mentioned that there should have been a prompt on the benefit calculator that would have asked for a dollar amount (to be obtained from PERS and which we had already gotten) that would be the Variable Discount. I told her that I had seen no prompt. She went out and checked and came back and said that apparently someone had taken it off and made no reference to its removal on the site. Why would someone take it off and NOT TELL THE PEOPLE ANSWERING THE PHONES????!!! Ridiculous!!!
We are willing to accept 11.33% interest on 1999, we are willing to accept the IAPs, we are willing to accept the variable discount when it comes to Money Match, so why can't we get a good number, even if someone there has to hand-calculate it? While I can understand them not wanting to hand-calculate for everyone wanting an estimate for the next two years, why not at least accommodate the people looking to retire SOON, like within six months?
I've emailed Customer Service and gotten zero response. I emailed the Suggestion line and a nice man from there has played telephone tag with me for a few days, saying he would help me use the Benefit Calculator (we finally both gave up trying to reach each other), and I talked to a woman yesterday who wasn't anywhere near as helpful as I would have liked, who basically said "this is the way it is, we can't change it."
Can someone PLEASE give this issue some visibility? The window retirees are NOT the only ones who need answers.
Friday, October 21, 2005
It is clear that the Strunk/Eugene implementation project will take a long time. The first order of business is to get 2004 Member Statements completed for still-active and inactive members. That will involve recrediting for 1999, adjusting 2003 and then crediting 2004. The goal is to have those statements out by the end of January 2006. To follow will be the 2005 member annual statements at close to the usual time in 2006 (mid May). The retiree piece is expected to consume the lion's share of time and resources. While the short-term deadline is April 1, 2006, it is obvious from comments and observations that this is expected to be a multi-YEAR project (it might have been Paul Cleary who remarked, somewhat off-the-cuff, that it would probably be 2008 before they'd be able to 'close the books' on the Strunk/Eugene implementation). One new fact emerged today. In terms of the actuarial reduction method, Craig Stroud confirmed that if the member took an option that involved joint survivorship (2, 2A, 3, 3A), the actuarial reduction *would* be based on joint life expectancies IF both parties were still alive. Otherwise, the reduction would be based on single life expectancy of the surviving recipient. The planning group and the Board are still open to alternative payment options and heard again today from someone advocating that PERS agree to an installment plan that allowed the member to repay the exact amount owed in something other than a lump sum. The Board was receptive to the idea, but there was no committment made to implementing such a method. The Strunk/Eugene implementation plan is still short on many details and it is expected that it will continue to evolve for 3 more months (and 3 more meetings) before a final plan emerges.
There was a lengthy and tedious discussion over the 2004 crediting order, which has never been finalized. PERS Staff asked for finality today so that the Strunk/Eugene implementation could proceed. As I was leaving, virtually everything about 2004 had been settled except for the matter of whether or not to fund the Capital Preservation Reserve (henceforth CPR). The Board struggled with the concept of taking money from Tier 2 members to put into the CPR. Staff had recommended that the CPR be funded at 0% for 2004; the Board wanted something more than 0% and something less than 7.5%. The discussion centered on 0.75%, but the real debate was whether Tier 2 members should have their earnings diverted to the CPR when there was no clear plan to repay Tier 2 members in down markets. Greg Hartman argued against putting money in the CPR, PERS Staff discouraged putting 2004 money into the CPR, Tom Grimsley wanted 0% to go into the CPR, while other Board members wanted something more than 0% to go in. Since this discussion seemed to be going nowhere quickly, I decided to leave. The main message is that Tier 2 members have been losing earnings to the CPR since 2003, even though they're supposed to "earn what they earn". That's another discussion for another time.
One other final note. Marsha Chapman, one of the two local Mercer actuaries assigned to PERS, has already resigned to "pursue other opportunities".
If I get a copy of the "PERS By the Numbers" presentation in electronic form, I'll post it here. Have a good weekend.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
There is a second document in the packet that describes and details a proposed administrative rule that covers "recovery of overpayments". This is a worthwhile read as it explains the lengths to which PERS is going to go to recover 100% of the overpayments. A couple of things to note. First, the proposed OAR refers exclusively to "payees" (and doesn't not, unless I missed it, refer to "beneficiaries" or "alternate payees"). This implies that PERS does not intend to hold beneficiaries or alternate payees responsible for overpayments made to the primary retiree. Don't quote me on this yet because the OAR doesn't say it. It is an inference by omission. Second - a minor piece of good news in an otherwise dismal post. The "actuarial reduction" in monthly benefits will NOT affect the COLA base. In other words, when a COLA is due, it is applied to the actual benefit, not the benefit diminished by the actuarial recovery amount.
The Board doesn't appear to be poised to "adopt" anything at this meeting; that probably awaits even more detail at the November meeting. The longer the Board delays adopting its methodology, the longer it is before any potential litigation will be triggered. It is clear that recovery efforts - initiated by a notice of an overpayment and a description of its computation - MUST begin before April 1, 2006. The statute of limitations for errors and overpayments is set in statute to be 6 years from the date of the error. This means that PERS must initiate the process AT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL not later than 6 years from the date the 1999 earnings were credited - approximately on April 1, 2000. The clampdown will start soon.
Monday, October 17, 2005
The PERS Board meets this coming Friday (October 21) to take up further details of implementing the settlement and the Strunk case. I have no indication of whether the Board will finalize implementation details at this meeting, or wait until the November meeting. There will again be an opportunity for some public testimony, and members who are interested/affected should attend. It is again at the PERS Headquarters at 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
P.S. To Chris. iTunes has the song title spelled incorrectly. I've changed it per your suggestion.
Monday, October 10, 2005
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
For those of you using my calculator, it has been calculating this "worst case" scenario since the beginning. It is the first large number flagged by the "<==". The second large number (smaller than the first) was the amount we'd hoped to owe PERS (actually, we hoped PERS simply owed us money, but that isn't going to happen to any "window" retiree). You might as well ignore everything in the section of the calculator labelled "COLA offset". There will be a COLA offset, but it is prefigured in the first set of calculations. Yet another revised calculator will be released shortly to reflect this sad reality. You might NOW seriously want to contribute (again or for the first time) to OPRI's Legal Defense Fund. We cannot allow this perversion of the justice system stand. Contributions to the OPRLF (Oregon PERS Retirees Legal Fund):
P.O. Box 7325
Salem, OR 97303-0065
P.S. Lipscomb Calculator (see link at left) has now been updated to reflect PERS' final implementation method. Actuarial recovery has not been programmed yet. Check back in a few weeks for that update.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Please take a few minutes to visit the new site (you'll be redirected at first, but this is short-lived) and let us know what you think. There is a link on the new site that will direct comments to the OPRI Board Member on the Web Design Committee.