Saturday, November 04, 2023

Ted Siedle: NEA Rakes In Millions Selling Annuities To Teachers


November 4, 2023


NOV 2, 2023

NEA Rakes In Millions Selling Annuities To Teachers

For over half a century, NEA has been in the business of selling financial and investment products to teachers.

NEA members sit on the boards of many state teacher pension funds which oversee the investment of hundreds of billions in retirement savings.

Less well-known is the fact that NEA has long been in the business of providing investment advice to teachers through an investment management affiliate registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, NEA Member Benefits. That is, the powerful union is also an investment adviser that profits from selling certain retirement products to teachers.

The fact that NEA rakes in millions from selling variable annuity and mutual fund investments to teachers is troubling to Dean Dennis, President of the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Assocation. Dennis has two concerns:

“First, I question whether NEA, which claims to have conducted extensive due diligence and selected a variable annuity firm as the exclusive program provider to its members, is really up to the task. Should NEA even be involved with picking winning and losing investments for teachers? 

Second, since NEA-sponsored state organizations are involved in selling investments and share in the related compensation, their members serving as trustees overseeing public pension investments may be conflicted in fulfilling their fiduciary duties.” 

Finally, investment consultant Chris Tobe has concerns about annuities in retirement plans: 

“The Biden Administration and U.S. Department of Labor, just yesterday,  questioned the high risks and high hidden “junk fees” related to annuity products in retirement plans. So, it’s clear, teachers should demand transparency and low-cost investments in their retirement savings plans.”

Read Ted Siedle's full article on SubStack.

Trina Kay Prufer: Why STRS must acknowledge the truth about the COLA

From Trina Kay Prufer

November 4, 2023

Why STRS must acknowledge the truth about the cola
“Actual benefits will be paid in accordance with STRS LAW in effect AT THE TIME of retirement”.
This sentence appears in over a decade of STRS documents including yearly account statements, plan booklets and projections of monthly annuity payments. The statement was not written to misinform, fool or lie to us. It was MEANT to give teachers the assurance that at the time of retirement, the benefit was fixed, safe and backed by the LAW.
It was the CERTAINTY of the law, which kept many of us in the same district for most of our careers. The defined-benefit was not advantageous unless teachers stayed for full retirement, which included inflation protection for peace of mind. Additionally, should a teacher consider working in another district, there was often the disincentive of limiting the years transferable to the new pay scale.
Teachers were assured of inflation protection because it was good for the State and good for schools. Being freed from worry about retirement meant energies could be focused on helping individual students and enriching the school environment. How many of us spent hundreds of hours working on plays, grants and a myriad of unpaid extras designed to enrich students’ learning?
In my time, STRS held field meetings every year in different areas around the state. These yearly meetings had the effect of reinforcing the end goal of staying in education for the benefits full retirement offered. The cola was the incentive that promised a sustainable decent standard of living.
Right now, we may not be able to change much, but we can demand that STRS acknowledge the truth. It doesn’t cost STRS any money to do so, but gives us back some DIGNITY and RESPECT. We were not negligent, naive or in any way responsible for the predicament we find ourselves in. The LAW was to have protected us. STRS told us so… many times over. STRS may have re-written the law, but they can’t rewrite the truth.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Trina Kay Prufer's suggestion to STRS: Try a dose of DEDICATION to your real mission… which is making OUR retirements financially secure, so we can focus on educating Ohio’s children.

From Trina Kay Prufer

November 2, 2023


As teachers, we did what was HARD, not what was EASY. Many of us worked in substandard buildings, had overcrowded classrooms and were not well compensated given the level of training and DEDICATION required. 
Our expectation is that STRS work as hard for us as we did for the children of Ohio. The problem is they don‘t. They took the easy way out…  and fixed THEIR problem of pension mismanagement by HARMING us. They see it as a zero sum game. They win, we lose.  We … always…. lose. 
Other states don‘t eat their own. Just look at states that make teacher pensions work… Missouri, Nevada, New York and others. Their secret sauce…. it’s in the will of their legislatures, the strength and clarity of their laws (such as using the CPI or other metric in the cola adjustment), fidelity of teacher unions to their membership and in the culture of the retirement systems, all of which align in valuing the welfare of teachers.  
It won’t be easy…. But STRS needs to get the message… work for us, not for yourselves. Stop stuffing your own pockets. Go back and read the historic documents as to the original purpose of the organization. Try a dose of DEDICATION to your real mission… which is making OUR retirements financially secure, so we can focus on educating Ohio’s children.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

James Carr: STRS has made a lot of choices and set a lot of priorities during the past 20 years and in general they all share one thing in common: Teachers always lose.

From James Carr

October 31, 2023

Where we end up in life often comes down to the choices we make and the priorities we set. The same holds true for organizations. STRS has made a lot of choices and set a lot of priorities during the past 20 years and in general they all share one thing in common: Teachers always lose.
We lost an annual COLA that was unequivocally guaranteed and we lost 30 and out, which was a longstanding multi-generation tradition.
What did the STRS hierarchy and it's large infrastructure of well compensated employees lose? Think Long and hard. Did they take any pay cuts or pay freezes? Aside from an in-house daycare center, did they lose any of their premium perks? Did they make any real cuts in their expenditures? Did they liquefy any of their assets to help pay for our COLA's? Did they cancel any of the multi-million dollar bonuses? Did they eliminate any of their positions or lay off any of their staff?
When we finally get a new reform-minded Board, they will need to make a very simple choice: Who is more important, us or them? For more than 2 decades, it's always been them. Always.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Trina Kay Prufer: STRS is a scandal waiting to be exposed

From Trina Kay Prufer

October 29, 2023

 STRS is a scandal waiting to be exposed...

I do understand that the public does not have much sympathy for teachers. However, if this story is approached from the point of view of the tax payer, it just might have some traction.

STRS is supported by educators and the tax-paying public. It is a public entity, not a private corporation. Yet, its facilities, salaries, bonuses and worship of alternative investments reek of excess and malfeasance. STRS is CRYING POVERTY to the public… it wants to increase the tax payers' contributions to 18%, yet it is answerable to no one. There are some great visuals here…. The size of the building, its heated sidewalks and all the information available through a public records search. STRS is in a league of its own when it comes to blatant excess and squandering of other people's money.

Theoretically, the 18% could help us…. if we believed it would be used to restore benefits. Under normal circumstances, we should be all for it. But, does anyone believe, at this time, it would go towards making the lives of membership better? Money is like catnip to these people. They are intoxicated by their own sense of entitlement.

No matter how much or how little each member has been cheated, they still have been cheated of what they were promised and are due. Members need to be treated by the STRS Board with the same sense of obligation and urgency they always show to staff.

~ Joe Lupo

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Trina Kay Prufer: A pension is about financial peace of mind and the promise of maintaining a decent standard of living… and that is PRECISELY what we lost. This is the REAL story that is hidden away, lied about and made to disappear.

From Trina Kay Prufer 

October 29, 2023

On Oct 3, I attended the Parma STRS town hall meeting. It was an open forum with about 35 attendees present. In front of this group, I specifically asked Neville the question:
What does: “Actual benefits will be paid in accordance with STRS law in effect AT THE TIME OF RETIREMENT” mean? His answer was that it only meant the base benefit. STRS never meant it included the 3% cola.
However, my STRS documents tell a completely different story.
My last print out of projected monthly annuity for 2008 says “3% annual cola thereafter”. The benefits booklet from 2008 says “a cost of living increase of 3% is granted each year”. There are no qualifiers whatsoever.
The new wording of the cola adjustment reads as follows:
“STRS will periodically evaluate whether a cost of living increase is payable in accordance with the law AT THAT TIME.”
These two sentences about the payout of the benefit cannot possibly mean the same thing. The first sentence appears in all my STRS documents beginning in 1996 and continues through 2008, when I became fully dependent on the STRS defined benefit for my livelihood. I rejected withdrawing my account OR taking the PLOP based on STRS written and oral assurances that the annual cola was a part of the benefit.
Neville is an attorney, who is the Executive Director of STRS. He should be held to a HIGHER STANDARD of telling the truth, as he understands the law and knows better. It is an ethical standard codified by the Ohio Bar Association. We expect attorneys to be officers of the court. In fact, 500K Ohio teachers and their dependents rely on his being truthful and trustworthy.
Yes, the truth is ugly…. STRS reduced the assured (or guaranteed) defined-benefit, after it made retirees RELIANT on information it provided. At least that would be the truth.
Why is the lie disadvantageous and harmful to membership? It pits membership against STRS employees. The benefit counselors and other employees have no understanding of what happened… or what it means to have relied on a pension system which removed financial security with the stroke of a pen. A pension is about financial peace of mind and the promise of maintaining a decent standard of living… and that is PRECISELY what we lost. This is the REAL story that is hidden away, lied about and made to disappear.

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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