Partnering for a Purpose

Guest editorial by NPEA Member Bobbie O'Neil
Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

If there’s one comment we hear more than anything at OPERS it’s “I wish I would have started saving earlier”. We hear it over the phone, when counseling members and at our education events. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have made different choices when I was younger. Retirement seemed so far away when I was in my 20’s and 30’s, and now as I approach retirement eligibility I’m not ready. That isn’t what I thought my retirement would look like, I didn’t realize there was such a gap between a reduced and unreduced pension.”

As we looked at our total active and inactive member population it consists of over 818,000 members, with more than 343,000 representing active contributors. In reviewing our member demographics by generation in 2015 we discovered Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials make up the majority of the list with a total of 98.2% of our active member population.

For the younger generations, Generation X and the Millennials, getting them to be engaged with OPERS is difficult because retirement is so many years away. We feel that we should adapt and develop education they can relate to in their current lives, like financing, debt relief or consumer tips, with the message that the smarter you are today with your money, the better off your retirement picture will look.

Generation X and the Millennials is where we want to focus our attention moving forward. These two groups make up more than 66% of our active member population, and in 2015 we were only able to reach and educate half of one percent (.5%) of them through live seminars and webinars.

OPERS has provided group style education for nearly twenty years. Although education has been provided to members of all ages and service levels, the majority of our education has been provided to members near retirement and already retired. So we have developed an initiative with several phases to reach all generations of our membership with relevant information.

Research has shown 72% of employees are interested in their employers providing programs to help them make decisions about their financial needs. Public employers are our best advocates in assisting us and if we’re able to partner with even a fraction of the 3,692 public employers in the state of Ohio, we should be able to educate a very large number of employees.

By partnering with our employer groups, we will be better positioned to provide the education these three generations are seeking. If OPERS can help its younger members with today’s concerns, they can move on to planning for their retirement. Education about Retirement planning starts from day one. Partnering with our employers is imperative because they are a trusted resource for employees and employers know firsthand what their employee’s wants and needs are.

We know this information is important because employees are making retirement decisions every day. We want to make sure members have accurate and complete information to insure the transition to retirement is a smooth one. The Lifecycle Education Initiative will encourage members to attend interactive seminars and workshops that will give them an opportunity to meet with subject matter experts to educate and get them thinking about the many things to consider when retirement planning.

OPERS is the early stages of a massive education initiative, we are currently partnering with our public employers to identify opportunities to engage our members at every point along their career paths – not just when the finish line may be in view. In order to do this, we are:

  • Organizing employer events to hear their thoughts on the tools and information that would work best for their employees
  • Creating electronic surveys to obtain retirement engagement data specific to employee population
  • Forming topics of financial education that may help associate current financial decisions with retirement and make retirement savings a more serious consideration earlier in one’s life
  • Implementing new software that allows event participants to provide us real time data and statistics