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(12/17/14) - When Carolyn Monroe retired, she anticipated living on her pension from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and her full Social Security benefit. Monroe was shocked to discover that, due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) formula, she would only receive one-third of her benefit earned through Social Security. That reduction in benefits forced her to change her plan and return to work until age 72.

Sound familiar? This happens in Ohio too.

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The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act would help prevent this situation from happening to others. The bill would repeal the WEP and guarantee that public servants receive the benefits earned while paying into Social Security. Public servants who turn 62 on or after Jan. 1, 2017 would benefit from the new Public Servant Fairness Formula.

Read the full Humble Observer article here.

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(12/12/14) - Since the Great Recession, there has been much debate about the advantages and disadvantages of moving public employers from defined benefit (DB) pensions to defined contribution (DC) plans; however, the latest study by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), Still a Better Bang for the Buck: An Update on the Economic Efficiencies of Defined Benefit Pensions, finds that DB plans continue to provide predictable retirement income at about half the cost of DC plans.

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A 2008 NIRS report, entitled A Better Bang for the Buck, found that DB pension plans are more cost-efficient than even the most ideal DC plan. Since the original study, efforts have been made to improve DC plans by decreasing fees, converting DC account balances into a lifetime stream of income, and increasing the use of target asset allocation funds (gradually and automatically shifting an individual’s asset allocation based on their age and estimated retirement date).

Taking into consideration these changes to the DC model, DB plans deliver the same level of benefit to employees at about 48% of the cost of a DC plan. This is compared to a 46% savings in 2008. Despite notable improvements to DC plans, DB plans provide even more cost savings than they did six years ago.

The study finds that DB plans have three unique features that drive cost savings: longevity risk pooling (placing all contributions into the same pool of assets based on average life expectancy), maintaining a well-diversified portfolio over time, and higher investment returns due to lower fees and professionally managed investments.

NIRS also finds that, because of the significant cost advantages of DB plans, transitioning to a DC plan at the same contribution rate would greatly reduce retirement income.

Download the full report here.

  

Source: National Institute on Retirement Security

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(12/8/14) - Public retirement systems are becoming more confident about the sustainability of their funds and their readiness to manage future retirement issues, according to the latest survey released by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS).

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NCPERS and Cobalt Community Research surveyed 187 state, local, and provincial public pension funds throughout the United States and Canada. Of those, 81% were local pension funds and 19% were state pension funds. Respondents’ confidence in their system’s ability to address future retirement trends and issues increased to 7.9 on a 10-point scale, up from 7.8 in 2013.

Other major findings from the survey include:

  • Funding levels increased from an average of 70.5% in 2013 to 71.5% in 2014. This was due to two factors: one-year investment returns of 15% and lower amortization periods.
  • Funds are experiencing healthy one-, three-, five-, and ten-year investment returns, as a result of more stringent investment practices and control of costs.
  • Public funds are becoming more cost-effective.
  • Funds continue to adapt to economic, environmental, and political changes to ensure sustainability.
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(12/1/14) - Would you be interested in attending an informative session geared specifically toward retirees?

This fall, SERS began hosting a Retiree Informational Series. It covered a variety of topics, including Social Security issues, emergency preparedness, and fraud prevention. In addition to featuring speakers from local agencies, it also provided a question-and-answer section.

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We will be holding another session on Thursday, March 12, from 1 p.m.-4 p.m., at the SERS headquarters, 300 E. Broad St., 43215, in Columbus.

Please register online by clicking here, or by calling 614-222-5814. The session is free, but space is limited.

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(11/19/14) - Today is Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day – a day to focus on the importance of our members and retirees, and all education support staff who help keep our children safe and give them the tools necessary to succeed in school.

Who are ESPs? They are the bus drivers, cooks, classroom aides, maintenance workers, security personnel, and countless others who ensure students are “healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged” each school day.

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According to the National Education Association (NEA), ESPs comprise 40% of the total K-12 education workforce. ESPs are committed to their careers and the safety of the students. Some key findings of a recent NEA survey of ESPs:

  • They average 11.5 years in the ESP workforce, and 67% plan to stay in their current position.
  • They have an average of 10.8 years with their current employer.
  • 59% have witnessed bullying behavior. Of those who have witnessed bullying, 89% have stepped in or tried to stop it.
  • 45% have witnessed school violence. Of those who have witnessed school violence, 85% have stepped in or tried to stop it.

ESPs are often the first and last faces students see each day. Could you imagine a day without the education support staff in schools? Take a look at this moving video from the NEA, which will give you a glimpse of what a day would be like without the people who help keep our schools running and our students safe.

To our members and  retirees, and all education support professionals – thank you for your service to our schools and all you do.

 

  
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(11/17/14)  - This week is American Education Week (AEW), an opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of the individuals within our schools who help our children succeed.

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The annual observance honors education support professionals (ESPs), teachers, students, parents, and community members – any individual who helps ensure that each child receives a quality public education.

This year’s theme is “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility.” The National Education Association (NEA) asks all Americans to “do their part in making public schools great for every child so that they can grow and achieve in the 21st century.”

On Wednesday, November 19, we will recognize our members, retirees, and all ESPs by celebrating Education Support Professionals Day. Throughout their careers, ESPs touch the lives of students, provide encouragement and support, and help ensure their safety.

Click here for a list of all special observances taking place each day this week, and for ways to promote AEW in your school.

You can also join in the celebration by following our Facebook page. We will post updates, videos, and more throughout the week to honor those who serve our schools.

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(11/17/14) - On Nov. 13, 2014, U.S. Representatives from two non-Social Security states, Texas and Massachusetts, introduced legislation to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act which “provides equal treatment of Social Security benefits for teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public servants who earn two pensions – one in Social Security and another in a substitute program like a state teachers retirement program.”

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The WEP affects SERS retirees who are, or will be, receiving a Social Security benefit based on their own Social Security employment record. Under the current legislation, their Social Security benefit was reduced depending on the number of years paid into Social Security.

The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act  eliminates the WEP, and allows Social Security benefits earned by public employees in non-Social Security states to be calculated just as other workers, based on their real-life contributions and work history.

After reviewing the text of the bill, SERS was the first retirement system in the nation to issue a letter of support.

We urge all SERS members who have paid into Social Security, and retirees who are affected by the WEP, to contact their congressional representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the bill and support its passage. You can do this from the Legislative Action Center on the front page of the SERS website.

We’ll keep you posted on the bill’s progress.

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(11/14/14)  - Retirees who don't have Medicare coverage may be able to obtain more affordable coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Open enrollment for the Marketplace starts Nov. 15, 2014 and runs through Feb. 15, 2015.

You can search for health insurance plans during the open enrollment period. You need to apply by Dec. 15 to have coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2015.

The Marketplace does not affect your SERS health care coverage, and you are not required to change plans. You decide what is best for you.

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All plans cover essential health benefits, pre-existing conditions, and preventive care.

You may be able to find less expensive coverage when you qualify for a subsidy to help pay the premium.

The Marketplace is not for those who have Medicare. If you are a SERS retiree who is not yet eligible for Medicare or who purchased a Marketplace plan last year, click here to learn more.

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(11/12/14) - To better serve our members, we now offer extended counseling hours on Wednesdays.

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The counseling staff is available for four additional sessions on Wednesdays, with two sessions each from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

We also offer appointments at 8:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:45 p.m. during any weekday.

If you are approaching retirement and would like to schedule a session with one of our counselors, call 1-866-280-7377.

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Oppose Social Security Offset and Windfall Penalties

We encourage SERS members and retirees to contact their members of Congress to ask them to support elimination of these provisions. Contacting your legislators is easy using SERS' Legislative Action Alert. By entering your ZIP code, you’ll have access to the contact information (e-mail address, phone number, and mailing address) of your federal legislators.

Encourage your legislator to support the Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act.

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