That Was Then; This Is Now

We had a fantastic success in Minnesota teachers’ defined-benefit pension plan last spring. Here’s what shaped that public employee pension adjustment bill:

What were the factors making it necessary to pass a pension bill?

Mortality Experience: An experience study in 2015 evaluated all actuarial assumptions (economic and demographic) and recommended an adjustment to the mortality tables — TRA members and retirees are living longer — on average an extra two years, adding significant cost to the fund.

Who has the longest average life expectancies in the USA?
…….people born in Hawaii, age 81.3
…….people born in Minnesota, age 81.1
…….people born in Connecticut, age 80.8
…….females
…….people with higher education
And which of these are Minnesota teachers?

Investment Return Expectations: A “mini-experience study” in 2017 of the economic assumptions recommended a lower investment return assumption, from 8.5% to 7.5%. This adds significant liability to the fund.


However, It isn’t over yet. Future legislatures and administrations could undo all of that, and there will certainly be a big push from Arnold Foundation millions to bring us all into their high fee brokerage firms with a defined-contribution plan. While we fight back at the polls, Minnesota TRA is heading toward stabilizing and advancing those hard won pension system benefits.

TRA logoTRA Strategic Planning – Four Goals

Engagement and education
TRA will provide information to empower members, employers, legislators and taxpayers to be informed and engaged about TRA’s governance structure as well as the value of a defined-benefit plan. Member educational materials should be clear, accurate, accessible and presented in innovative ways for all life stages.

Fund integrity balanced with equity in plan provisions
TRA will abide by its fiduciary duty to ensure the financial stability of the plan while working toward fairness in benefit structure and contribution rates. TRA will continually monitor the plan’s financial health. When needed, TRA will recommend adjustments to stabilize the fund while upholding the board’s guiding principles of shared commitment, intergenerational equity, long-term financial sustainability and maintaining the recruitment/ retention value of a TRA pension

Engaged, empowered, high-performing workforce
TRA will demonstrate dedication, stability and inclusivity. Leadership and staff will respect all perspectives and experiences. Succession planning and operational workforce planning will support the transfer of knowledge from outgoing employees and the recruitment and retention of new and existing employees.

Risk-intelligent organization
TRA will be a risk-intelligent organization with a robust, proactive and comprehensive risk-management program. TRA will continue to monitor and respond to known and emerging risks.


TRA’s Mission:

Retirement security for Minnesota teachers

Support state’s education system by attracting and retraining teachers

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Pension Awareness Week

The Minneapolis Committee of Thirteen: Advocating for your defined benefit pension system and educating for a secure retirement with dignity.

It’s autumn, the time of year we gear up for the legislative session in which public employee pension systems are mulled, debated and very often modified here in Minnesota. During the next few months, the Legislative Commission of Pensions and Retirement, the LCPR, a joint House and Senate committee, meets to hear about, discuss and shape legislation about TRA, MSRS, PERA and other Minnesota public employee pension systems. How much active teachers, principals, clerks, ESPs and other workers in state funded jobs contribute to their pension systems, and how much those who are retired from those jobs get in pension payments.
It is also the time we ask active teachers and principals to sign up for payroll deductions of $1, $2, $5 or whatever amount they can manage to help meet the costs of advocating for them at the LCPR meetings as well as in face to face meetings with Representatives and Senators from across the state. Contributions are also used to help fund to campaigns. It used to be that campaign contributions from political action committees, PACs, were limited to a few hundred dollars during the campaign year, 2016, and there was a limit on how many total dollars candidate could accept from PACs. Those limits have now doubled and contributions cover a two-year span, currently 2015-2016. Well funded opponents of public employee benefits, including your pension, will have no trouble meeting those new limits, but we may be able to keep up without your help.

Next week will kick off the Pension Awareness Week. When active Minneapolis Public School teachers and principals see the bright green and yellow wristbands in their buildings, they’ll know the Actives Campaign is underway. If you are wearing a Pension Awareness Day wristband, be prepared to explain it to your colleagues; you’ll know what to tell them by then because other materials will be sent out at the same time.

Raising awareness is the first step in standing up for our earned benefits. Sharing that awareness then strengthens us all. And that’s what the Committee of Thirteen is all about:
* Supporting your future security by protecting your defined benefit pension system, TRA and Social Security.
* Understanding how an investment in your pension system and other places assures your later years will be a reward for your working years, and not a purgatory suffered under the influence of greed and economic inequity.

Please be ready and do what you can.