COLA surveys coming in
OPERS plans to review all responses from retirees
By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System
Sept. 13, 2017 — The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System is surveying retirees on proposed cost-of-living adjustment changes, and the results are coming in. We’ve received more than 60,000 surveys so far, and we’ve been busy collecting and reviewing your responses.
You still have time to send us your thoughts. Although the survey asks for responses by Sept. 8 — and then we extended the deadline to Sept. 15 — OPERS will accept and continue reviewing all of the responses we receive.
Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.
37 thoughts on “COLA surveys coming in”
I hope our comments will be read and this is not just a cursory exercise to make us feel a part of the decision…this is important in terms of our livelihood for the few short years we have left. Done hurt the over 70 people..thank you
I was very unhappy with the survey. Every question was slanted toward what the board wants. We weren’t given any options to make comments and let you know what we wanted to do so I’m going to tell you with this comment.
All the present retirees count on that 3% increase every year so my suggestion is to grandfather the present retirees and continue to give them that increase and then change whatever you think is best for future retirees. Every change in the past has worked that way so that present retirees are not affected by the change
This isn’t true in regards to the insurance changes. Even current retirees were affected. They should have been grandfathered & the changes applied to future retirees. Next year the spousal insurance reimbursement will be gone.. When I get correspondence from you, I wonder what you are cutting this time.
You can say that again.
I am asking you to grandfather in the current retirees for the 3% cola that they currently receive and make the changes effective with most recent & new retirees. A number of retirees made the decision to retire based upon the news that they would retain the 3% cola if they retired by a certain date. Any proposed changes to the percentage of the cost of living assessment should occur with retirements that happened after that date.
Part of the reason I retired 1-1-11 was to lock in at the three per cent. There were other considerations but that was a major part of my decision.
You already made aggressive changes to our non-Medicare healthcare coverage to avoid paying the planned future Cadillac tax which is no longer happening. This has greatly increased our out-of-pocket healthcare expense by more than the offset provided by the 3% cola.
Will you be improving our non Medicare healthcare coverage since this is no longer an issue? If not, I propose your grandfather the current retirees who already have an established 3% cost-of-living adjustment, to offset the higher healthcare costs.
Continuance of OPERS is a must for existing and future retirees. COLA should be tied to the cost of living to maintain the value of a retirees income. Without a COLA, the retirees pension would be degraded. A cap should only be utilized if OPERS balances are threatened.
What do you mean proposed. By the questions and choices on the survey you have made up your minds. It you be interesting to hear your thoughts and feelings if you were a retiree.
I cannot speak for everyone else but I need cola as it is not easy to live on retirement. As we are aging, we have more health problems and rising cost of utilities, gas, insurances, etc and it is harder for us to survive and live comfortably.
What is next the changes made are enough
I believe that the 3% based on retiree retirement date is already a reduced benefit, i am very tha kful for ny health and pesuon package. I think to reduce ir eliminate this amount would eventually lead to hardship for many who have paud their dues and have decided to retire a d were prompted to do so to avoud the current dilemna. New employees should go by new rules. It is only fair. Thanks
I am not in favor of our COLA being reduced from the current amount. OPERS has already taken our health care away and we have to buy our insurance with the amount you allocated to us. Last year you reduced the amount we now get and if you reduce it again in2018,which I am sure you will, we will have less money to purchase plans and have less in our accounts to pay medical bills. While it is true that more retirees are living longer, it is taking more money for us to live on . If you keep taking more of our benefits away from us, how are we to live on simply our pension. We don’t get Social Security to help us out because we worked for the county during our working years. You need to come up with a better solution.
Because of the Windfall Elimination Providion, if you also get Social Security, it is cut dramatically because you get a public employee pension unless you have 30 years of service. The brilliant federal legislators say you would be getting too Money if this isn’t done. Don’t think so. I didn’t pay into Social Security at a reduced rate.
I just mailed out my survey. Sorry for the delay, but I didn’t receive it in the mail in time to respond by September 8, and now that I live in Georgia, I have been preoccupied with Irma. In fact, with so many retirees living in Florida, I would suspect that many OPERS retirees will not have the opportunity to respond by September 15. I would suggest a much longer extension so that those in the south who have been adversely affected by the weather have time to respond.
Even though I have finally sent in my survey, I wanted to make a comment here to supplement the survey. With all the discussion about adjusting the RATE of COLA, I haven’t seen anything discussing what the percentage rate is actually applied to. I retired in 2010, and at that time, my COLA was calculated at 3% of my pension as of 2010. I have then received the same actual dollar figure for my COLA every year since. So, now, seven years later, my COLA is actually only 2.5% of my previous year’s pension amount. So, in terms of raw dollars, our COLA has already been frozen. Now, I agree that 2.5% is still higher than inflation, so I’m not complaining. In fact, I have no problem with having the COLA be limited to the CPI, but in all fairness, it should be calculated the same way the CPI is calculated, on the basis of the previous year’s base pension number rather than the pensioner’s original annual pension. I have no idea what effect this would have on helping maintain the financial health of the system, but I think that any honest discussion about percentages also includes the basis for the percentage, i.e., what the percentage is applied to. If you adjust the COLA to match the CPI, but continue to base it on the member’s original pension, then as the years progress, members will end up receiving much less than the CPI, which is just imbalanced as the current system is in giving more than the CPI.
This would keep the COLA for people who have been retired 10 years or effectively equal to the 3% simple rate in place now, and it would apply fairly to both current and future retirees without favoring one group over the other.
10 years or more I meant to write
I want the system to be solvent and strong. Hate to give up anything however I understand and just hope we can keep the 3% with some short freeze.
I do NOT however understand the math behind the freeze. How can a ONE YEAR freeze save $2.5 Billion and a TWO YEAR freeze saves just $3.3 Billion. In other words the second year saves just an additional $800 million. I realize some of the folks currently receiving the 3% will have passed away and of course I realize that the second year will obviously have one less year to produce savings. It would seem to me the second year should save 80-90% of the first year savings. Can someone explain the math?
The calculations are based on a CPI COLA with 3% cap with a 1 or 2 year freeze. Of the $2.5 and $3.3 billion in savings, approximately $1.7 is generated from the CPI COLA leaving the freeze to account for approximately $800 million per year.
Please let me know if you have additional questions.
OPERS needs to realize that using a “one size fits all” method when making cost cutting changes to our pension plan may be a slight change for some, but for others have a significant impact. On paper, a proposed fixed reduction in COLA is neatly illustrated on colorful charts and graphs showing future cost savings. All members share the set reduction. Fair, clean and simple. (Looks impressive at board meetings) They can easily forget that these are real people impacted.
I for one greatly considered my modest yearly COLA increase as a factor when planning my retirement. I started attending OPERS seminars at least 15 years before my retirement as directed by OPERS to help decide the best suited retirement plan that would also maximized benefits. I planned and tried to predict the future the best that I could with the information I had. Unfortunately, my crystal ball was not able to forecast a devastating reduction/elimination of spousal healthcare and now a probable negative COLA change.
All retirees should take same COLA reduction, unfair to newer retirees to grandfather older ones as was done a few years ago.
Having retired in 2002 with my COLA based on my base salary, I invite you to do the math and note the financial hit taken over the past 15 years.
I have advocated in another Perspective column that what would overall be best for the country would be to eliminate public pensions and have a one payer system under Social Security. Tax all sources of income without a cap. People who don’t understand the WEP provision complain about the unfairness when in fact it achieves the balance as intended. This would not be a concern under a one system for all. And having a 401 with a mandatory minimal contribution would make retirement certainly doable.
It’s wonderful being able to retire at a relatively young age but it’s not realistic. Other than our Police, Firemen and Armed Forces Members, we all should be under one system.
Why should Public Employees pensions be affected by WEP, but if you retire from General Motors, IBM, General Electric or any other private company and have a defined benefit pension, your social security is not reduced by WEP.
It makes no sense.
Thank you for your comment. You can find more information on GPO and WEP in our blog, “Supporting solutions to the WEP issue,” https://perspective.opers.org/index.php/2017/04/04/supporting-solutions-to-the-wep-issue/
I AM TOTALLY AGAINST A DECREASE/FREEZE IN COLA FOR RETIREES. I BASED MY RETIREMENT PLAN ON HAVING A SLIGHT INCREASE OF 3% A YEAR. THE SURVEY WAS SLANTED SO THAT NO OPTIONS WERE GIVEN BUT TO ELIMINATE, FREEZE OR DECREASE OUR COLA. THIS IS A CONTRACT I BASED MY FUTURE RETIREMENT PLANS ON AND YOU NOW BELIEVE THAT I WOULD ACCEPT A CHANGE TO MY FUTURE INCOME. SERIOUSLY!!! THESE ARE BOON YEARS FOR OPERS AND THE ORGANIZATION HASN’T EVEN FULLY REAPED THEIR SAVINGS FOR LOWERING HEALTH BENEFITS AND DELETING SPOUSAL HEALTH COVERAGE ALONG WITH RAISING CURRENT WORKING STATE WORKERS RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS WHILE DECREASING THEIR BENEFITS. I GAVE 30 PLUS YEARS OF SERVICE TO THE STATE OF OHIO WHILE ACCEPTING PAY THAT OFTEN WAS NOT COMPARABLE TO PRIVATE SECTOR COMPATIBLE JOBS BASED ON BENEFITS THAT I COULD RELY UPON AT RETIREMENT. ATTRITION… SADLY PEOPLE WILL DIE AND FUTURE EMPLOYEES HAVE ONLY HAVE LIMITED COLA. SOOOO THIS WILL BE A WOKABLE SOLUTION WITHOUT PUNISHING PRESENT RETIREES. FURTHERMORE I AND FELLOW RETIREES WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND A MEETING OF THE BOARD TO PERSONALLY EXPRESS OUR DISPLEASURE WITH THE OPTIONS THE BOARD HAS PROVIDED FIXED INCOME RETIREES. ALL OPTIONS ARE A FARCE BECAUSE IT IS A FORGONE CONCLUSION THAT THE BOARD HAS DECIDED TO CUT OUR BENEFITS AT A TIME IN OUR LIFES WHEN WE ARE UNABLE TO SUBSIDE OUR INCOME SO WE WILL HAVE TO LIVE ON A MORE LIMITED INCOME.
UNHAPPY WITH ANY OPTION THAT CUTS MY LIVELIHOOD
Why would they send out a survey asking to do nothing???? Answer, they would not.
A COLA freeze of the 3% for two years would effectively reduce our COLA to 2.7% per year for a 20 year period or 2.8% per year average for the 30 years. A hidden way to lower our yearly COLA without specifically saying it.
Time to get more retired people in power
Why even ask us.
This whole cola picture is being falsley painted. We only get a 3 percent raise the first year after we retire. Then our cola is that exact same dollar amount every year for the rest of our life so that is in no way a 3 percent raise. If you are going to start a cola based on CPI then it at least needs to be calculated on your actual pension instead of what your original pension was when you first retired. Besides, all the additional costs we have and continue to have increase for our healthcare insurance are more than eating up our cola raises.
Please! You keep reducing and reducing and reducing benefits! You must grandfather us in!
Do not reduce the 3% COLA for us old retirees. My base pay of over 15 years ago is probably half of what a base pay is today and I did not pad my base pay with any overtime pay. Do not allow future retirees to pad their base pay. We will not be around much longer to receive retirement benefits.
You patted yourselves on the back after the sweeping changes in 2012 and deemed the system healthy. You claim the system is still healthy. So leave our COLA alone. We will resist every step of the way. If we let this happen you will continue to come back for more.
The only way I would accept a change is if you based the cost of living increase on the current year’s amount and not the original pension amount with NO CAP. As it stands, we lose money every year due to inflation as the 3% is simple interest.
Of course your guarantees mean nothing. Our COLA was enacted into law in 2012 and now you want to take it away.
Below is an excellent comparison a retiree made comparing the difference between cooperate pensions and Soc. Sec. in regard to the WEP rulings…
“George, Why should Public Employees pensions be affected by WEP, but if you retire from General Motors, IBM, General Electric or any other private company and have a defined benefit pension, your social security is not reduced by WEP. It makes no sense.”
we are only referred to read the OPERS website on the WEP rulings….how about an answer in plain language?
Social security initial benefits are not the same percentage across the board. The less you make, the higher percentage of your salary you receive. Social security assumes you had no income during the years you worked under OPERS, thus giving you the higher percentage for your intial benefit. The WEP Provision takes into consideration all of your income and then gives you the appropriate percentage for that income bracket. It is fair because social security is paid by tax dollars, unlike private pensions from companies i.e. IBM, GE, GM.
The Cola plan to hold it back for two years seems punitive to me coming so quickly on the heels of the Legislature rejection of the Cola a couple years back. With denial of Spouse coverage, that leaves my 85 year old husband totally without coverage other than what small amount may be left after my insurance and prescription cost (I am 82). Will we both live to receive the Cola when it is begun again?
I think you should return to looking at the actively employed and consider extending the ages for retirement for those who have worked 30 years or more (57 or whatever) in this day and age of longer lives is not acceptable .