OPERS Proposed Changes to the COLA August 8, 2017

OPERS Approves Plan for Surviving Spouses
February 15, 2017
PERI Ballots Deadline
August 24, 2017

OPERS Proposed Changes to the COLA August 8, 2017

PERI is aware of the proposal by OPERS to make changes to the cost of living adjustment (COLA). While we are not happy with this development, rest assured that PERI’s Board of Trustees and staff are working to evaluate OPERS proposed changes. Our Board will be meeting soon to discuss these proposals and will adopt a response.

We understand that OPERS will be sending a survey during the week of August 14th to retirees asking for their opinions on changes to the COLA. We strongly urge every member to respond to the survey and to include comments about how any reduction in the COLA would personally impact you. We encourage you to visit our website frequently for any updates on this breaking issue.

208 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I never received a survey in reference to a
    change in the COLA. As an OPERS retiree, I assure you that I would have replied
    to a survey on that subject. We gave up a lot on the health care front and were
    told that would stabilize our OPERS finances, now this?? I think we need an independent
    investigation…

    • Dianne Rabe says:

      Agreed

    • Rebecca Craig says:

      Interesting——I did not get one either.

      Could this be a plan to alter the response of the retirees????

    • Carol Cyrus says:

      I agree.

    • Dave says:

      I didn’t receive survey. I did call and and received one.

      Please check out the USInflationCalculator.com. Change the date to one closely aligned to what OPERS is referring to. Now tell me if you don’t receive a COLA adjustment and at CPI or better what your pension/lifestyle will be like! Retirees, inflation has been low because we have been an continue to climb out of of a “depression.” When do you think inflation is likely to go over the next 10 years – stay the same, go lower, or go higher?
      This situation is not crisis as do noted by OPERS.

      Suggested solution:
      . Grandfather retirees (Retirees cannot. absorb more income reductions to their budgets – they are retired and on fixed income.)
      . Make COLA at CPI or better (currently at 3% – not less – Inflation like to go higher in the future today)
      . New hires to OPERS affected by by changes to COLA

      OPERI your turn not to wait and see, but to be proactive in behalf of retirees.

  2. Donna says:

    I agree what Bob said. 100%

  3. Jim says:

    I was told that the survey will be coming in approximately 7 days. I agree with Bob we have given up a lot already. More cost for healthcare spouses removed and now this new proposal. Our 3%is based on our retiring salary. After a few years it is actually only 2.5% and keeps going down. It does not compound. And if inflation returns we are all in trouble.

    • Jim says:

      And how come we keep giving back billions and the system is still only 80% funded. What is going wrong? The stock market is a record high.

  4. Jim says:

    One last thought, although OPERS reports retirees are living longer, Bloomberg Business News reported yesterday that we are not… https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-08/americans-are-dying-younger-saving-corporations-billions

  5. RP MacKenzie says:

    We on a world scale are at the bottom of descending interest rates. Our own Federal Open Market Committee has raised rates twice and will do so again in December. The FOMC will soon start selling securities from their portfolio which will drive general interest rates up even faster. These actions alone will have a deleterious effect on our standard of living. The price of a barrel of oil has also reached its nadir and is heading higher. Any commodity tied to the price of transportation or comfort conditioning (heating & cooling) will go up.

    “Decades of low inflation” are behind us not in front of us. If this executive director is allowed to carry out this blunder, we have only ourselves to blame.

  6. John says:

    Does anyone know the process OPERS would have to follow to reduce the COLA for folk with 30 years OPERS credit? They mentioned going to the General Assembly. Do they have to change a law?

  7. Roy says:

    More current retires should speak up especially since this is the last year OPERS is providing any health care dollars for spouses. Being seniors our cost of living is going up much faster than anticipated when we originally retired due in large part to changes in our health care coverage. Let’s not forget that 3% is based on our retiring salary, certainly not the same as today’s salaries. So those of us who can least afford this financial hit will be expected to take it. Had we known these road blocks would be thrown in the way would we have retired when we did? Should we be expected to go back into the workforce to make up the difference?
    BTW here is some of the bloomberg article mentioned above, note that businesses are decreasing their retirement liabilities due to shorter life spans.
    “In 2015, the American death rate—the age-adjusted share of Americans dying—rose slightly for the first time since 1999. And over the last two years, at least 12 large companies, from Verizon to General Motors, have said recent slips in mortality improvement have led them to reduce their estimates for how much they could owe retirees by upward of a combined $9.7 billion, according to a Bloomberg analysis of company filings. “Revised assumptions indicating a shortened longevity,” for instance, led Lockheed Martin to adjust its estimated retirement obligations downward by a total of about $1.6 billion for 2015 and 2016, it said in its most recent annual report.”

  8. Frank Zangara says:

    I urge all of my fellow OPERS to fight these “proposed COLA cuts”. OPERS is in great financial shape there is no need. The OPERS Director seems to think we retirees
    need to take a hit but as you all recall if you retired prior to 2013 you were to continue to receive 3.0% COLA each year. She also notes the low inflation environment of the last few decades.
    That indicates that low inflation is behind us and higher inflation is in our future, I imagine the more assets in OPERS the better it look for the OPERS Director but her job performance
    and legacy is not our concern. When ask how the COLA revision would be accomplished she notes there are several possible scenarios and or combinations of scenarios but interesting enough she also states the savings would be $2 billion dollars…now tell me if you do not have a plan already determined how can estimate the savings? I think they know exactly what they
    plan on doing. Also please complete and return surveys…they will be mailed the week of August14th. OPERS director also mentioned generational equality but how can retirees take the hit we were told we were grandfathered in the last changes in health care as nice as that sounds we are paying more for less. The working members need to take the hit they can always choose to work longer. Also they can limit the start of COLA until 3-5 yrs after retirement or discontinue Defined benefits completely and offer new employees 401k’s if they don’t like it they can find work elsewhere. Further the CPI is not a good gauge of the cost of living. The federal government has an incentive to low ball the figure every check to every social security. military and I could go on.. they want to keep their expenses lower. Also if we agree to a COLA freeze we may never get another increase in our benefits. Over 30yrs this change can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars lost to each and everyone of us. Go to http://www.hughcalc/cola.org and use the calculator to determine just how much money you stand to lose. Do not allow it to happen,call OPERS fill out your survey and return it, call your legislators and consider legal action. Get vocal on social media and write editorials to the newspapers. This is the fight of your life so fight as if your life depends on it because your financial future well being does. Do not let OPERS back out of their obligation to us. Remember that is our money.. they work for us and not the other way around. Get mad as hell and do not take it anymore. They refer to themselves as a trusted partner. What a joke they have did nothing in recent years to earn or deserve our trust.

  9. William H Hamilton says:

    Having been a member of PERI since my retirement in 2000 and after 34 years of public service I ,like all retirees am concerned and disappointed in the recent OPERS Directors letter. Over the years OPERS has published Benefit documentation which has always stated to our membership ,” A retiree who has received benefits for 12 months WILL receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment.” Even the posturing the a COLA would be eliminated contradicts long standing policy. The letter suggests further that different age groups ( retirement groups) would be subjected to different COLA benefit rules depending on retirement dates. This is not a well informed policy decision if this is allowed to become reality. All retirees,in my opinion should be guided by the same policy guidelines . OPERS now appears to want to make a case that our oldest retirees somehow did not deserve what was provided based on their conclusions about historical Consumer Price Index. These inflation rates are available for all retirees and PERI Reps to closely review. It is rather difficult to make any argument that the CPI index is flawed (and it is) , but this has always been the benchmark data to report inflation for most economic planning. However when you take the CPI data and look at it closely some things are evident.

    1. Since 1914 until present there has only been 11 years reported with a negative inflation number. Point is historically most years over time there is inflation. In fact in the last 50 years the mean average for inflation was 3.22% . So it appears the historical wisdom of OPERs recognized this some years ago. It is true as pointed out in the OPERS Directors letter that reported inflation numbers are down . Over the past 25 years the mean average is 2.3 % and past 10 years 1.76%.

    2 , On average there continues to be inflation reported and slightly reducing over time.

    3 , When looking at inflationary changes over the years there are significant swings which are driven by historical events but also documented changes in the formulas used in different times to report a national Consumer Price Index. There is significant speculation represented about impact and the forecasting with inflation. Any serious investor knows this all too well.

    In conclusion, I would encourage PERI to secure the continuance of a COLA benefit for all retirees as well as future retirees who have given their public service. While achieving this ,care must be taken to not compartmentalize retirement groups based solely in our economic swings over the past 10 years if one also concludes like I have that the historical data proves otherwise.

  10. jeff owens says:

    The problem is and always has been giving free insurance to spouses who never paid into the system, they should have pay their way like it or not

  11. jeff says:

    The problem is and always has been giving free insurance to spouses who never paid into the system, they should have pay their way like it or not

    • William H Hamilton says:

      Jeff that problem has now been remedied. Spouses are no longer covered nor is OPERS brokering much in the way of health insurance thus the HRA accounts which are funded at the present.

  12. Ginny says:

    Retiree increase in healthcare costs, elimination of reimbursement for Medicare B, now reducing or eventually eliminating COLA. What next… decreasing monthly benefit payments? How does one fight these never ending changes by OPERS that impact retirees lives? We must all fight this, including a strong voice from PERI.

  13. Dianne Rabe says:

    My husband worked for the county for 19 years and purchased time with certain promises as to his pension. Along with accepting OPERS, he gave up half of his Social Security and any claim to mine. Kerry did his part; it is time for OPERS and the state of Ohio to do theirs.

    There were comments during his work-life that there were no promises as to healthcare. There were no such comments regarding the COLA. I, frankly, do not care if OPERS has financial problems. Don’t turn your problems into mine.

    Our pension is not charity. We and our employer put money in with state guarantees of a certain outcome. If there is money to expand Medicaid to healthy adults who do not work, there is money to back up any shortfalls to the pension system.

    When my husband first retired in 2010, OPERS was one of the strongest pensions in the country. To remain strong, cuts were made in 2012. Already in 2017, you’re considering additional cuts? I know that other, weaker plans have not made cuts, the Cincinnati Retirement System, Connecticut’s state fund, and California’s fund. It is unfair for Ohio’s pensioners to take multiple hits when a bailout of other systems is obvious in the making.

    As you can tell, I am not happy about this.

  14. Carolyn
    Cuting our cost of living is not good. As it is when I receive my percent I have notify Social security and then the deduct two third of that amount from my social security pension.

  15. John Pallay says:

    Draft of letter I plan to send to OPERS Executive Director Karen Carraher . . .

    I am writing to raise several questions about the proposed ending of the 3% COLA. I can see how, particularly in retrospect, you see the 3% COLA as overly generous.

    It might help in your deliberations to consider issues raised by my situation:
    I retired at the end of 2012, with the 3% COLA being a primary factor in the timing of my retirement. I, like many other state employees, did a lot of personal number crunching in late 2012. My numbers showed that I would be ahead to retire sooner than I had planned, although this meant a loss of wages that I would have earned if I had continued to work, and a loss of a higher pension had I continued to work. It also meant that I was taking a risk that inflation would not continue to be under 3%. I also lost money from Social Security since I was drawing Social Security while working, but my check was reduced by the pension offset once I retired.

    Now you are considering taking back this 3% COLA, which is in effect a retroactive change in the terms of my pension. However, I cannot go back and retroactively retire at a later date to compensate for this. Pension planning has to consider financial projections for however long the retiree may still live.

    So my questions are: Can you ethically take back a 3% benefit, which a retiree had relied on you for in long-term planning? How would a 3% take-back hurt the OPERS reliability image among younger state workers and prospective state workers? If it is right to take back the 3% COLA, why didn’t OPERS do this in 2013? If you don’t take back the 3% COLA now, is it going to continue to be a threat hanging over the heads of current retirees for the rest of their lives?

    If you look at retirement rates, I think you will find a bump-up in numbers at the end of 2012. This bump-up is a group that was looking at the 3% versus non-3% question, and this is a class of people who would be particularly disadvantaged by a take-back of the 3% COLA.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,

    John Pallay

  16. Jim says:

    John’s letter is a good example. His situation is like all of ours. When we retire, after one year, we receive a 3 percent increase. Each year thereafter we receive that exact same dollar amount. So after 5 years, that dollar amount is a 2.6 increase. And if you are fortunate enough to live 20 years, this dollar amount only provides a 1.9 percent increase. Social security does their COLA on your current retirement, not what you started off with 20 years earlier. With our healthcare costs soaring, we will all be in a fix

  17. John Kaiser says:

    So, the week of August 14th has come and gone but not survey. I have found over the years that OPERS is not real good a keeping their word to retires. Hope we can all get this stopped.

  18. Dan says:

    I watched the video at http://www.opers.org/cola/. Looked like “Smoke and Mirrors to me” . One would think we get a 3% Cola adjustment calculated like the consumer price index each year . But we don’t . Ours is calculated based on your first year of retirement and stays the same and never goes up. The CPI Consumer price index % is calculated from year to year cost. For instance if your retirement the first year was $20000 the next year you would recieve an additional $600.00 the next year. That makes your next years wage 20600 and 3% of $ 20600 is $ 618 however you would not recieve a full 3% COLA you would receive $600. If it were calculated the same way as a consumer price index it would be $618.00.

    What concerns me the most is that, the communication from OPERS , does not acknowledge that a 3% Cola for retires that retired before 2013 would equate to a 2.4 % after 10 years , and 1.9% after 20 years.

    The chart they showed on the video did not compare “apples to apples”.

    I would not have an issue with just keeping up with the CPI calculated off the previous years gross retirement.

    It is true that that over the last 5 or so years the CPI was low and some people who retired 2010 may be ahead of the CPI at this point, however, 20 years from now they will be behind, if the COLA stays the same. If OPERS reduces the COLA we will be way behind.

    I made my choice to retire based on the COLA I would recieve at the time I retired. It does not seem correct to reduce it after a person Is retired.

    Dan

  19. Jim says:

    I just finished my PERI Perspectives 3rd quarter 2017. The OPERS Update insert states that , “The liability for current retirees pensions are 100 percent funded.”. I presume that this includes our simple 3 percent COLA. So for whom are we being asked to sacrifice?

    • Dale Harmon says:

      OPERS took a huge hit in 2008, the Great Recession. The total pension ratio, according to OPERS, went from 96.3% to 75.3% from 2007 to 2008. A lot of people, like myself retired at the end of 2008. Never-the-less, by 2012, the total pension ration, again according to OPERS, was up to 80.9%. Beginning January, 2019, the COLA for those who retired after January 7, 2013 will be the CPI, but simple interest.

      It seems to me that OPERS was slow to respond to the Great Recession and the solution proposed by OPERS, which became effective in 2013 was not sufficient in the short term. However, the effective COLA to the compounded inflation rate of retirees continues to drop. My COLA increase for 2019 will be effectively a 2.36% increase relative to compounded inflation. and will continue to drop, as with other retirees.

      Further, ORC 145.561 makes retirement benefits a legal right upon retirement. However, effective January 7, 2013, the COLA of those who retired after that date is NOT a vested right.

  20. LFY says:

    I was not happy when they dropped our spouses from our insurance.P.E.R.I could of helped deterred this in the passed when p.e r s new about this in the nineties on what was happening .Then you double our rates on membership .Well I and others dropped out of P.E.R.I .Will I ever join back with P.E.R.I ? Lets see what can be done with P.e.r.s taking any of our c.o.l.a ……. This can be stopped. You don”t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

  21. larry says:

    I was not happy when they dropped our spouses from our insurance.P.E.R.I could of helped deterred this in the passed when p.e r s new about this in the nineties on what was happening .Then you double our rates on membership .Well I and others dropped out of P.E.R.I .Will I ever join back with P.E.R.I ? Lets see what can be done with P.e.r.s taking any of our c.o.l.a ……. This can be stopped. You don”t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

  22. Catherine says:

    We were promised by OPERS that the last adjustments to our pensions would keep us financially healthy. I ran a spreadsheet using the 3% cola figures prior to my retiring in 2010 and I required these funds to survive in the future especially in light of the other changes made by OPERS. Now they have picked a proposed arbitrary 2009 retirement date and some kind of one time compensation?! Also, we were told by OPERS board members that the AG had stated that they cannot change the COLA. We seem to have a lot of conflicting information from OPERS. I agree with previous posts, we must aggressively fight this one. The legislature can change our cola, it is currently in the ORC and what they “give” they can take away. I have not seen the questionnaire yet either.

    We need to meet with our PERI district reps and there should be a cohesive strategy to approach the legislature who have the power to vote on this issue. I have never seen any district rep meetings in my area (Montgomery County). We should not ignore this. I will participate.

  23. Catherine says:

    We were promised by OPERS that the last adjustments to our pensions would keep us financially healthy. I ran a spreadsheet using the 3% cola figures prior to my retiring in 2010 and I required these funds to survive in the future especially in light of the other changes made by OPERS. Now they have picked a proposed arbitrary 2009 retirement date and some kind of one time compensation?! Also, we were told by OPERS board members that the AG had stated that they cannot change the COLA. We seem to have a lot of conflicting information from OPERS. I agree with previous posts, we must aggressively fight this one. The legislature can change our cola, it is currently in the ORC and what they “give” they can take away. I have not seen the questionnaire yet either. We need to meet with our PERI district reps and there should be a cohesive strategy to approach the legislature who have the power to vote on this issue. I have never seen any district rep meetings in my area (Montgomery County). We should not ignore this. I will participate.

  24. virginia aveni says:

    Where is the joint sacrifice we should see. If the fund is being reduced, time for an increase in withholding by current employees and their employers. Is this the ‘fix’ since the radically operating General Assembly will not reinstate losses to the local government funds where local employers can add to withholding? 3% for those of us who retired under salaries at the 2000 rate is little enough.

    Belt tightening is good for all lower and middle class citizens while cut are awarded to the top 1%? No, I don’t support this initiative. Do your job and work for all Ohioans.

    • Malcolm Montgomery says:

      I agree with Ms. Aveni: It is not unreasonable to ask our brothers and sisters who are still earning to help shore up the system, if they want it to be there for the rest of their lives.

  25. William Kaiser says:

    I retired in February 2008. I was promised a set pension amount for life, along with a 3% yearly COLA. I don’t recall OPERS ever saying my pension would only be paid for 10 years, or 20 years. Should I apologize for living too long ? OPERS routinely sends out mailings about adopting a healthy lifestyle to reduce costs for our healthcare coverage. Well OPERS, you can’t have it both ways. Either you want me to make regular trips to the doctor and stay healthy to reduce your healthcare costs, or you want me to curl up in a corner, and die. Which is is ?

    And while we’re speaking of sacrifice, what sacrifices has the OPERS Executive Director made to help the system ? What sacrifices has the Board of Trustees for OPERS made for the
    system ? I haven’t read of any pay cuts at the OPERS offices, or to any senior staff members. It would appear that OPERS is going after the low hanging fruit, in the form of current retirees to shave costs, rather than admit to gross mismanagement on their part.

    I keep reading about the survey that OPERS will be mailing the week of August 14. Here I sit at my computer on August 22, I have received NO SURVEY. With OPERS obvious lack of credibility, I have to wonder where this alleged survey is, or if it even exists.

    To the PERI board, there is nothing to discuss when it comes to your position on this matter. You sold yourself as protectors of our pension benefits. You sold yourself as our lifetime partners. Are you the trusted protector of our pension benefits that we worked for all those years, or will you simply fall into lockstep with OPERS, and defend their actions as just and necessary ? YOUR credibility is now on the line with your members.

  26. Mark says:

    The adjustment to the COLA from 3% to CPI was a very poor decision and here is why. Retired persons require a set increase to plan and survive. If OPERS needed additional funding, take a small portion more while you are working, not after you retire and depend on that retirement. Also OPERS does not even compound their retirement which is also needed. Additionally, there is the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) which cuts into most everyone’s Social Security. Again, all of this should have been factored in so the Social Security would not be touched. I personally have almost 20 years paid into the OPERS system and now I don’t recommend it to anyone. Even at this time, I may cash out prior to my retirement, rollover the funds into an IRA, and work a few more years in the private sector so I can collect my Social Security.

  27. Mark says:

    Still no survey? Still no comment from PERI about it? The CPI (Consumer Price Index) is the measure by which they are arguing this proposed elimination of COLA for us. The trouble with that is CPI is so politicized it has never been an accurate indicator of inflation. https://www.forbes.com/sites/perianneboring/2014/02/03/if-you-want-to-know-the-real-rate-of-inflation-dont-bother-with-the-cpi/#1c4c6ede200b The government has incentivized to under report it & does not divulge exactly which products are even being monitored. CPI is a joke.

    • Fred says:

      I called OPERS on Thursday 8/17 and asked when the surveys were being mailed out. I was told they were already mailed, and mine should arrive any day. I asked who was being mailed the surveys, and was assured that every retiree would receive a survey. It is 8/24, and still no survey received. I was told all surveys had to be back in Columbus by 9/6. I am phoning OPERS on Friday.

  28. Daniel McGannon says:

    The COLA is based on your the salary when we retire. I agree with Jims comments . Further more , I watched the video on the Ohio pers web site , it looked like they wanted to make it appear like they pay the retires 3 % a year every year off the prievious years wage. The COLA is not calculated the same as the CPI. The graph in the video does not look representative of what’s really happening. I am concerned when I see those errors !
    Additionally I did recieve a survey letter, however I called OPERS and asked the to send me one. I was told they would however I never received one yet.

  29. Jerry Montgomery says:

    A cut in the 3 percent c.o.l.a is an erosion of pension benefits. If opers is allowed to do this without a fight, Who is to say down the road, opers would make an attempt to phase out the c.o.l.a totally? In 2020, the affordable care act Cadillac tax will be imposed upon retirees. Along with a cut in the c.o.l.a, will be a reduction in the standard of living for retirees.

  30. Jerry Montgomery says:

    Karen Carraher states a reduction in the 3 percent c.o.l.a is needed for Generational Financial Equality? This reason needs to be held to the highest scrutiny!

  31. John says:

    I learned about this possible change in the COLA from reading about it in the recent PERI newsletter. Like others, I haven’t received any survey questionnaire from OPERS, so I will check with them directly for additional information. I realize when the Great Recession occurred that OPERS’ investments took a hit just like most pension funds across the country which lead to a change in Ohio law eliminating the guaranteed three percent annual COLA for future retirees. A date was established whereby if you retired before this date you could preserve this benefit otherwise you would be subject to the new rules. I elected to retire before that effective date to be assured of the three percent COLA. I was also told at the time that the pension fund was in good shape but would be made stronger by this change. Since that time the economy has — more or less — recovered and the stock market has been climbing to new record highs so what is happening now, or what is being projected to happen, that would justify, or at least explain, the need to make any change to the COLA? I would need more information before I could say if changing the COLA is warranted in order to shore-up and preserve the pension fund; otherwise, I would oppose any change that would renege on the promise made to me when I retired. Short of some general economic meltdown or some pension fund specific calamity, promises made to current retirees and those near retirement should be honored.

  32. Linda says:

    I retired in 2010 after 20 years in OPERS. Took a 10% reduction in my pension (recommended by the OPERS representative) so my husband would have access to healthcare insurance in the event I would die before him. Didn’t want to do it but my husband thought it was a great idea, so being pressured by the OPERS rep & my husband, I signed…BIG MISTAKE! My first 20 years of my working career was in the private sector so I received the Windfall & only got 40% of my social security. And now OPERS is messing with the COLA?? Retirement is suppose to be a time to relax & reap the benefits, but I just keep getting depressed & worried about my finances for the future. Wished I had worked longer now…can’t go back! Come on OPERS, put yourself in our place, how would you feel?? Think hard & long about the retirees who are supposedly grandfathered in with the 3% COLA. And no, I have NOT received a survey either.

  33. Jerry Montgomery says:

    I contacted Opers this morning at 8 a.m. this morning to inquire about the surveys. They told me they were mailed out this week in large batches. They also told me the deadline for retirees to re-submit to opers is Sept. 8. Not much time!

    • Fred says:

      I also phoned OPERS today and spoke with Ember. She stated that surveys are still being mailed out. I asked her if every retiree will receive a survey, and was told that every retiree and benefit recipient will receive a survey.
      She stated that if you have not received a survey by 8/31/17, call OPERS and they will send out another survey. They wil not send another survey out before 8/31/17. All surveys are due back by 9/8/17.

    • Fred says:

      I also phoned OPERS this morning and spoke with representative Ember. She confirmed that OPERS is still mailing out surveys. I asked if every retiree will receive a survey, and was told that every retiree and benefit recipient will receive a survey. I was told that if you have not received a survey by 8/31/17, call OPERS and they will mail out another survey. All surveys must be returned to OPERS by 9/8/17.

  34. Dale Harmon says:

    I retired at the end of 2008 from the City of Columbus with 35 years in OPERS. In 2012 the Ohio legislature changed to COLA for future retirees, but did not change the COLA for existing retirees. The COLA is specified in ORC 145.323. This is important legally as it means that it is a state law. Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constitution reads in part: “No State shall….pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts,…”

    The relationship of an OPERS retiree to the State of Ohio is specified in the Ohio Revised Code. OPERS wants the Ohio Legislature to change that relationship retroactively by reducing the previous COLA. Such a legislative change in the law could be argued to be an illegal ex post facto law.

    Further, it can be argued that the State of Ohio, by establishing OPERS, created a contract with Ohio public employees. When a public employee retires, they have satisfied their portion of the contract. The State of Ohio then is required to fulfill its obligations under the terms of the contract. The COLA terms, when I retired, were that I would receive a 3% increase on my base retirement every year. If Ohio reduces the COLA, it would be impairing its obligation in this contract. That would seem to be Constitutionally illegal.

    The Ohio Legislature has already passed similar legislation with regard to the retired State Teachers. I would not be surprised if there will be a class action lawsuit as a result.

    I also have not received the promised survey. I urge every retiree to mail your own letter to OPERS with your opinions. I also urge every retiree to write a letter to the editor of your local paper. I now live in Florida, so I wrote mine to the Columbus Dispatch. I would like to know which of the three candidates for Retiree Representative is most likely to fight against any changes to our benefits.

    • Fred says:

      Dale makes some good points here.
      I know there are retired B.W.C. and O.B.E.S. Attorneys out there reading these comments.
      Do any of those retired attorneys have any input on how to deal with with the changes OPERS is proposing?

      • Ron Martin says:

        I have just been informed that a similar breach-of-contract is planned for the OPERS Additional Annuity…which my wife and I invested heavily in: in large part because of the promised inflation protection.

  35. Steven A. Lee says:

    It is now 8-26-2017 I have not received my survey yet. Why would opers put a closing date on such an important survey ? I asked if I could view it on line and they said no. I agree
    with all the above statements.

  36. Frank says:

    This is August 27, 2017 and I have received an email from OPER’s Karen Carraher regarding the COLA on August 7, 2017. I have received an email from PERI’s Geoff Hetrick on August 24, 2017. I have NOT received any “survey” from OPERS. OPERS has described many possible solutions to an undefined problem that isn’t happening and PERI is providing general ways to respond to the alleged survey while soliciting membership from non-members. In my opinion, both groups need to improve their performance to support their memberships.

  37. Dale Harmon says:

    I retired at the end of 2008. Like others, as of yesterday’s mail (8/27/2017), I have not received the much promised survey. I am very much against any change in the terms to my retirement, including the 3% COLA. ORC 145.561 provides a retiree, who retired before 1/7/2013, with a vested right to not just a pension, but also to the 3% COLA. I question whether OPERS and the Ohio Legislature can legally reduce the COLA of those who retired prior to 2013. My letter to the Columbus Dispatch to that effect was published today, 8/28/2017.

  38. Jerry M. says:

    Opers is sending letters to the general assembly pertaining to the reduction of the 3 percent c.o.l.a. for retirees who retired in 2012 and years prior. Retirees need to contact their state reps. and state senators and let them know how the c.o.l.a cuts will effect them. http://www.ohiogeneralassembly.gov As it stands now, These letters will explain Opers reason for the proposed c.o.l.a. reduction. It seems Opers will move forward with this proposal. Time is of the essence! If you have not received your survey, contact Opers. Opers has set a Sept.8 deadline for retirees to return the surveys.

  39. MIKE says:

    RETIREMENT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TIME TO RELAX AND FEEL FINANCIALLY SECURE, BECAUSE OF YOUR COMMITMENT TO WORK, JOB, SERVICE AND PLANNING FOR 30 PLUS YEARS. DURING THESE WORKING YEARS YOU RELY UPON YOUR OPERS BOARDS REPRESENTATIONS AND THE LAW. A PROMISE IS A CONTRACT. NOW IT APPEARS OPERS WANTS TO BREACH OUR CONTRACT WITH THEM BY STRONG ARM TACTICS. OPERS IS APPEARING TO BE UNTRUSTWORTHY, DISHONEST AND UNRELIABLE WITH PROPOSAL TO TAKE AWAY OUR 3% COLA, ESPECIALLY AFTER JUST DOING A 4 YEAR STUDY TO HAVE LAW CHANGED IN 2012! AS WITH MOST ALL RETIREES, I RELIED UPON THE REPRESENTATIONS OF OPERS RETIREE REPRESENTATIVES WHEN DECIDING TO RETIRE. THE MAJOR CONSIDERATION WAS TO RECEIVE THE 3% COLA FOR LIFE, TO HAVE SOME FINANCIAL SECURITY. WHAT A DEPRESSING AND FINANCIALLY DEVASTATING PROPOSAL TO TAKE AWAY THIS FINANCIAL BENEFIT THAT WAS EARNED, RELIED UPON AND WORKED TOWARDS RECEIVING FOR LIFE. THIS MISREPRESENTATION BY OPERS IS A BREACH OF CONTRACT AND NOW GIVES MY RETIREMENT SYSTEM A BLACK EYE AND SELF INFLICTED BLEMISH…ONE THAT I WAS ALWAYS PROUD OF BEING MEMBER OF. DO NOT TAKE AWAY OUR PRIDE IN OUR RETIREMENT SYSTEM. DO NOT DO THIS OPERS!!! ALSO, IT IS STRANGE THAT I AMONG MANY OTHERS HAVE NOT RECEIVED A SURVEY. OF COURSE AS INDICATED HERE NINEY NINE PLUS % WILL OPPOSE THIS RIDICULOUS PROPOSAL..

  40. Ron Smith says:

    I strongly encourage each member to respond directly to OPERS through their message system and directly to Director Carreher. This is what I sent today –
    I am responding to the Directors proposed changes to the Cost of Living Adjustment/ COLA. I can not financially survive if this adjustment is reduced or eliminated. State employees were invited to seminars at OPERS and encouraged to retire prior to 2013 to avoid losing their annual 3% COLA. Now OPERS wants to renig on the very basis which they promoted to induce retirement from thousands of employed State workers. This is despite record earnings in the financial markets and is clearly an attack on the livelihoods of current retirees who can not renew their State employment.

  41. Jim says:

    Just got my survey. It appears to provide incomplete and misleading information. Still comparing COLA to inflation when it is an apples to oranges comparison. Stated that over the last 30 years, the COLA has outpaced inflation 60% of the time. Problem is the COLA is a simple 3% based upon the original pension and inflation compounds. Over the last 30 years a pension would have increased 90%. Inflation has increased 119%, so the existing COLA has fallen 32% behind inflation even during these low inflationary times.

    Several other questions force you to choose between possible costly options. Unfortunately, the option to leave the COLA alone is not a choice so any responses will be skewed to look like retirees are OK with some change.

    I would like OPERS to actually make the case that the changes are needed. Investment returns should have been good for the last several years. (The stock market is up 98% in just the last 5 years.) Changes to our health care should have addressed the problems there. All I have heard for literally decades is how strong the system is. If that is true, why are changes needed now? If it was not true, why were we mislead? Where are the assumptions used to decide that suddenly something needs to be done? What has changed dramatically?

  42. Frank says:

    Here is OPERS reply to my message, Am I suppose to receive a survey regarding the COLA?

    Created By :EBELCHER on 08/29/2017 09:12 AM
    Frank, Yes, you will be receiving a survey. We are in the process of getting them all mailed out. If you have not received it by 08/31/2017 please call OPERS at 1-800-222-7377 or message us and we will send another one to you. Thank you, Ember

  43. John says:

    Aug 29th – no survey received. This morning OPERS does not seem to be answering their phones – I wanted to ask Where is the Survey?

    And I’d like to hear PERI’s perspective on the proposal. Does PERI have an opinion?

  44. Karen says:

    Vote for Charlene Powell for the Board. She understands what is going on and is for keeping the COLA as promised. It is the law. Keep watch because we will likely have to fight this in the OH legislature as it is pretty obvious OPERS is steam rolling this COLA change through.

  45. Karen says:

    It is very important to be aware of the upcoming election for a Board member. Call the candidates and find out their stand on this issue. Don’t be fooled by a well written bio.

  46. Fred says:

    I recived the survey in Monday’s mail.

  47. Sue says:

    Does anyone know how to contact OPERS BOARD members directly? I asked OPERS but did not get a response. We should all contact our legislators ASAP

  48. Donna says:

    The OPERS survey was deceptive and manipulative. There were no options to oppose the changes, so I had to write mine in.

    The 3% COLA is simple interest, not compounded, so eventually inflation will catch up. No retiree is making a profit out of this. And no one knows the future rate of inflation. What happens when (not if) it goes over 3%? Will OPERS increase our COLA? Don’t hold your breath.

    The 3% COLA was written into law for those who retired before 2013. We are vested. I believe we should call for Karen Carraher’s resignation. OPERS took away health benefits. Now they want to take away COLA. What’s next? If we give in on this, they will keep taking away more. We need to fight this every step of the way. We cannot allow these proposed cuts to happen.

  49. John says:

    Before I call for anyone’s resignation I want to see the math and the reasoning behind the proposal to reduce the COLA. If the math and reasoning are sound then I don’t want Ohio PERS to go the way that some other retirements systems have gone. But I want detailed math and reasoning – not the hand waving that I saw in the OPERS video. At the same time Ohio PERS seems to be telling us that they are in great shape, and they need to reduce their contracted commitment to us. What gives?

    • Donna says:

      Honestly, at this point, I do not trust their math and reasoning. There were huge, sweeping changes in 2012. If they cannot manage our funds after these changes, something is very wrong.

  50. Fred says:

    I agree with Jim’s response (8/28 @4:20pm) and Donna’s response (8/30 @10:46 am).
    The OPERS survey is deceptive and manipulative. There was no option on the survey to oppose the proposed changes.
    I wrote in an option to oppose any change to the cola.
    The survey as written is skewed to make it appear that retirees are ok with some change to the cola.
    I think other retires should write in an option to oppose any change to the cola, and make copies of your survey to send to the legislators so they know that retirees are opposed to any change in the cola.
    Anyone that retired in 2012 prior to the 01/07/2013 change in the retirement system was given the assurance that they would receive a 3% cola after being retired for one year, and every year thereafter.

  51. Buffy says:

    I am new to PERI. Mailing in my dues tomorrow. I am joining PERI — as I told OPERS — because I feel I need protection against the pension system. Told them I don’t mean to be nasty, but when I see their blurb: OPERS — “A Partner in your Future,” I used to feel strong. Now I feel they are “the other side.”

    As many before me have said here — first, we lost the group health insurance, which I thought was better than what we have with the allowances; then the Medicare Part B reimbursement; now they are wanting to reduce or possibly (I guess) eliminate the COLA; and I can just guess that what will come after they reduce or eliminate the COLA — OUR HEALTH CARE ALLOWANCES! Off the top of my head, we received a higher figure in 2016; somewhat reduced this year and somewhat more of a reduction for 2018. Were we given figures for 2019 and beyond? I am asking, not complaining here (-: Because I don’t think we were, but I surely could be wrong on that.

    I just have this terrible gut feeling (based only on the stuff they have grabbed back in the past) that they will take that away next.

    Sure hope I’m wrong.

    Can tell I am not alone in my unhappiness at their COLA reduction…..or the loaded way the questionnaire presented our options…all I can say is that I am tired of making sacrifices for “the public good.” And while I wish OPERS prosperity, — not on my/our back(s), please! And stop asking me/us to make sacrifices for you, OPERS.

  52. Jerry m. says:

    I received my survey on Mon. I returned it via mail on Tue. When retirees fill out the survey, Read it very carefully. There are some areas on the survey that sound misleading. Take your time when you fill out the survey!

  53. Bob says:

    I recall that when our health benefits were cut, we were told that we were never “guaranteed” health
    care. I looked at the documents that I received when I retired and it stated that the retiree will
    have 100% of their premium paid and spouses 90%, etc. I guess “will have” does not translate as
    a “guarantee”, just as a kinda-sorta “promise”. My question now is, just what are we guaranteed? If it is
    nothing, then then the lack of a guarantee could be used to justify about any cut that OPERS
    would care to make. Really, are we guaranteed anything?

  54. Jim says:

    What makes anyone think that if we open this to legislation that the only cuts they will make will be to current retirees’ COLAs?

  55. Jim says:

    I agree with Bob. When I retired, the papers I signed stated my pension amount, a dollar amount after one year which would be a fixed amount and be my COLA, and have my health insurance paid at 100 percent and my wife’s at 90 percent. Now, what I signed doesn’t matter. We have been cut enough. I have not been able to find an answer to my question and perhaps someone at PERI can let me know. Has OPERS ever made cuts before to it’s current retirees once they signed their retirement contracts, or is this only happening to our current retirees?

  56. Mark says:

    Finally received the OPERS COLA ‘survey’. I say ‘survey’ in quotation marks because its not really a survey at all. It filled with false equivalencies meant to frighten people either they need to take cuts in COLA or else loose health insurance or their pension. All this is over course predicated with our finances are “strong” & so not in peril as these questions are framed! OPERS obviously already has their mind made up regardless of what we think. They are just trying to spread fear so we support it.

    The CPI has never been an accurate measure of inflation. http://www.newsmax.com/Finance/JohnMauldin/inflation-economy-spending-higher/2016/05/13/id/728644/
    A pension doesn’t mean much if we become bankrupt with it. I think we should ask for Karen Carrarah’s resignation also. She isn’t looking out for OUR best interests.

  57. Daniel McGannon says:

    Received my survey questionnaire. And correspondence letter. The letter states that in the last 30 years the cola has outpaced inflation 60% of the time . This compelled me to go online and find a CPI calculator . You would be surprised how many calculators there are however they all give the same results.

    What I did was enter an amount $20, 000 and a year of 1986 for the start year : and a year of 2016 as the end year. The results came up that $20,000 in 1986 has the same buying power as $43,781 in 2016.

    I then calculated how much a person would get in 2016 who retired in 1986 with a starting retirement of $20,000 . I used the 3% “fixed” calculation OPERS currently uses. At the current COLA calculation a person who retired in 1986 at $20,000 would recieve $37,400 in 2016 which is 17 % less then the CPI.
    Our current COLA does NOT keep up wth the CPI OVER TIME as it is.

    I would Challenge OPERS to pay the COLA the same as the CPI based on the previous years total retirement amount.

    I am hoping the truth makes it to The General assembly because I’m not getting a warm fuzzy feeling when I read the letters from OPERS .

  58. Dale Kondas says:

    As many have already noted above, the CPI, and now, the more favored CPE, are both calculated as an ANNUAL percentage change. OPERS retirees like myself receive a COLA that is FIXED at 3% of our pension amount AT THE TIME OF OUR RETIREMENT! Hence, even the simplest of mathematicians would see that the 3% FIXED COLA we were promised, and still receive as an ANNUAL increase over our prior year’s pension, continually decreases as an ANNUAL percentage of our prior year’s pension!

    I agree with virtually ALL of the comments I have read here!

    OPERS needs to STOP taking from career retirees, and ‘strengthen the fund’, if it really needs strengthening, on someone else’s back….perhaps by increasing contibutions from current employees and employers??

    I received the survey yesterday……could it BE more skewed???!!!!

    I worked hard for Lake County for over 30 years . I retired under an agreement that both OPERS and I agreed to. Now OPERS is considering unilaterally changing those terms, AGAIN!!

    I have to say….ENOUGH is ENOUGH already!! Do a better job of managing our retirement system!!

  59. Dale Kondas says:

    In addition to my previous comment, I’d like to note that I am a dues paying member of both the State PERI and my local PERI chapter.

    I’m thinking that PERI may lose a few members if this issue can’t be resolved in favor of keeping the fixed COLA of current career retirees intact!!

    I guess I’ll have to call the candidates for OPERS Retiree Representative, as Karen suggested in her comment on August 29th, to try to find out where they stand on this incredibly important issue!!

  60. Bill says:

    This survey form appears to me as being manipulative. As someone commented, there are many questions that have no responses to oppose the proposed change. The responder is forced to make a selection that may not be his or her preferred selection. In my opinion, this form is created to influence the responses of participants away from an accurate or truthful response and making it appear that retirees are supporting something that they really are not. There also should have been an option to complete this survey online with space for adequate narrative responses. This would have provided space for more detailed responses and would have saved the mailing costs of many returned surveys.

    The letter accompanying the survey is also deceptive. The letter states: “The purpose of a COLA is to reduce the effects of inflation on a recipient’s pension benefit, not to fully offset inflation or surpass it. In the last 30 years, the OPERS COLA has outpaced inflation 60 percent of the time.” This first statement makes it appear that retirees are surpassing inflation and this simply is not true. The last statement of the quote is completely untrue. OPERS COLA is not a true COLA; it is a simple, uncompounded COLA of 3% instead of a 3% COLA compounded over time. Consider a member that retired in January 1985 with a final average salary of $35,000.00. According to the American Institute for Economic Research this retiree will need $56.261.68 in the year 2000 to have the same benefit. Using the OPERS simple COLA, the retiree will only be at $50,750.00, realizing a $5,511.68 shortage that year. Since the OPERS COLA is simple, this shortage will increase each year. In fact, this retiree was losing money ($1,360.75) just 4 years into retirement. In comparison, the Social Security compounded COLAs during the same time period (starting in 1986) were: 1.3, 4.2, 4.0, 4.7, 5.4, 3.7, 3.0, 2.6, 2.8, 2.6, 2.9, 2.1, 1.3, 2.5 and 3.5. Using the Social Security COLA, the retiree would be at $55,333.03 in the year 2000 realizing a $928.65 shortage.
    Using the above example, the retiree is behind inflation and needs an almost 11% compounded COLA to catch up.

    I received a notice from OPERS in November 2009 that informed members that OPERS is to “Replace the 3% simple COLA with a simple COLA equal to the change in the Consumer Price index up to 3%. This change would not apply to current OPERS retirees.” I am sure that many members that retired because OPERS promised a guaranteed 3% simple COLA if they retired before January 1, 2010, are wishing they did not take OPERS at their word and continued working.

    While COLAs may just seem like an obscure, minor technical change, moving these simple COLAs down have real consequences for retirees.

    • Malcolm Montgomery says:

      Thank you Bill! You have articulated well the same observations I have about the “survey.” It was clearly not designed by survey professionals in an attempt to understand retiree preferences. It has the distinct smell of an attempt to find some sort of cover for a hidden agenda. And that’s hardly paranoid: as another member pointed out, there are incentives for administrators to impress their boards by improving the bottom line. Their scheme may not be well thought out, or better options considered, but if they can report that they surveyed the members and have their support, who’s going to argue?

  61. My comments on Ohio Pers facebook page keep getting removed because I suggested a Facebook page to fight this proposed COLA reduction. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1430504293694603/?source=create_flow You are not allowed to voice opposition to this or propose any way to organize to fight it.

  62. Jim says:

    From what I have been able to discern, this is the first time in OPERS history that cuts have ever been proposed to retirees’ pensions after they had signed their retirement contracts. Also, there are many other ways that OPERS can save money without cutting into retired people’s pensions. Those cuts should be made to those who receive subsidies. Investment costs are also an area that should be reduced.

    • Hilou says:

      OPERS executive director, Karen Carraher, has a staff member, Richard Shaffer, as the chief investment officer, who earned a salary of $611,496.00 in 2016, according to the Treasurer of Ohio’s, Transparency Web Site. I hope the pension fund is getting their money’s worth.

  63. Steve says:

    I read through the OPERS COLA mailer and watched the online video explanation about possible COLA changes. These are the primary talking points that I came away with from these two sources.

    Summary of OPERS Director Carraher’s talking points:
    1) System is strong – want to make changes to keep it that way.
    2) CPI has topped 3 percent only 5 times in the past 25 years.
    3) For Past 25 years COLA is exceeding the CPI in these low inflationary times
    4) Times are changing – retirees living longer
    5) Implicit is that low period of inflation will continue rather than revert to long term average
    6) Multiple possible proposals from a COLA freeze to different levels of caps based on CPI rate (or from the video even tying the COLA to OPERS investment returns).

    I took a deeper dive into these talking points in an attempt to reconcile them to what I have read else-where and to determine if they stand up to some analysis.

    OPERS comprehensive annual financial statement certainly supports the contention that the system is financially strong. There is no urgent or pressing need to make changes to the current system. We have time to study the issues, consider our options and derive a good solution that meets the objectives of maintaining the OPERS’ financial stability and protecting OPERS retirees from the ravages of inflation.

    The second talking point concerning CPI has only exceeding 3% five times in the past 25 years is factually accurate (according to CPI data from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Web site). The statement however goes on to say that the OPERS COLA is exceeding the CPI in these low inflationary times. Three percent is not always three percent. In this case the CPI 3% and the OPERS COLA which is a fixed dollar amount COLA based on 3% of a retirees’ initial retirement benefit are definitely not the same thing.

    A more accurate way to look at the fixed dollar COLA vs. a CPI COLA is to see in how many years over the last twenty-five years the fixed dollar COLA was actually larger than a CPI based COLA. In this 25-year period, the OPERS fixed dollar COLA would have exceeded the CPI based COLA in only eleven of the twenty-five years. And overall, the CPI adjusted benefit would have exceeded the fixed rate by almost two percent. If one goes back in time one more year and looks at a 26-year period, the results are slightly more dramatic. The fixed rate COLA still will have exceeded the CPI based COLA in only eleven of the 26 years but the CPI adjusted COLA would have been almost 7.5% larger than the fixed rate COLA. So, for talking points numbers 2 and 3, there are a couple of things that need to be pointed out. First and most importantly, even for this period of extremely low inflation, the fixed rate COLA did not keep pace with a CPI based COLA. To put this another way, retirees in 1991 did not receive a net benefit increase over the past 25 years and did in fact suffer an inflationary loss of spendable income as measured by the CPI. The other point is that CPI is subject to the effects of compounding. If early in the retiree’s retirement the CPI adjusted COLA would exceed the fixed dollar amount COLA, even over long period of time of low inflation, the retiree never catches up. The 1990 retiree (who would have been retired for 26 years in the example above) suffers an almost 7.5% loss of spending income in 2016 vs the 25 year retiree who only experienced a 2% loss of spendable income. The only difference was that there was a 4.2% CPI (inflation rate) in 1991. But that difference when compounded over time results in a nearly 7.5% difference in inflation protection by 2016.

    Regarding talking point four where retirees are supposedly living longer, this is at least in dispute and probably incorrect. As others noted on the OPERI web site, the Bloomberg study of large publicly traded corporations as well as the federal government’s Social Security program have all reported “continued mortality reductions”. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-08/americans-are-dying-younger-saving-corporations-billions).

    Regarding talking point five which is never explicitly stated, that there will be a period of continued low inflation – is dubious at best. The long-term inflation rate in the U.S. is estimated to be 3.22%. Regression to that long-term rate is a high probability event. Goldman Sachs was on CNBC television last week telling investors that they expect higher interest rates in 2018 and they expect that they Federal Reserve could move much more aggressively than they have in the past. The only reason to do such a thing is to cool off the economy and keep inflation around their 2% goal. Now the Federal Reserve is also considering a higher rate of inflation as a target rate. (See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/16/the-federal-reserve-needs-to-learn-to-love-inflation). In any case, a period of continued low inflation such as we have seen since 2008 is a low probability event.

    Talking points four and five concerning forecasts of longevity and future rates of inflation are argumentative, and are likely unresolvable short of consulting a collegium of Haruspices. At the very least current sentiment does not support the assumptions of continued longevity increases nor an extended period of lower inflation.

    While not mentioned in the talking points but should be mentioned is what happens to retirees during periods of higher than average inflation. The talking points mention 1970 as the first year when OPERS started to provide a COLA. This was certainly a period of high inflation, peaking at 13.5% in 1980. A retiree who earned the average annual income of about $6100 in 1970 and retired with the 66% of FAS would have received a retirement benefit of about $4083 per year. In 1970 the single household federal poverty level was $1801. The two-person house hold poverty level was $2,348. The retiree was comfortably above the poverty level at the time of retirement whether for a single or dual person household. While the OPERS COLA varied during this time frame, this analysis assumes that the current conditions (i.e., a fixed COLA of 3% of the initial retirement benefit was granted each year) so that the scenario reflects what would happen with the current benefit structure during a time of high inflation. In ten years the two-person household would have crossed below the level of income determined by the federal poverty level. It takes 23 years before the single household would cross the federal poverty line for a single household. Through 2016 (forty-six years) the Fixed COLA would have been larger than the CPI only two times (in 2009 and 2016) and the CPI adjusted COLA would have been almost 300% of the fixed dollar COLA. The best result (that for a single person household) would have meant that the retiree spent half of their retirement below the federal poverty line. This is not a desirable outcome and ultimately is an unacceptable outcome too.

    The sixth talking point is about possible alternatives to the annual fixed dollar COLA (fixed at 3% of the retiree’s initial benefit). I could not determine from either the OPERS COLA mailer or the online video what is meant by capping the CPI at 2%, 2.5% or 3%. Is that really a CPI based cap or is it simply looking at the nominal CPI rate and applying that rate to a retiree’s initial benefit? That makes a huge difference. The 1990 retiree’s nominal 3% COLA benefit is already limited to about 1.6% in CPI adjusted dollars (and that was during a period of extremely low inflation).

    The traditional rule of withdrawing 4% from your 401K, 457 Plan, or IRA and adjusting for inflation each year has been replaced by more dynamic methodologies that protect the capital in the savings plan from down years while still maintaining a livable withdrawal rate and accommodating inflation so that spending power is not eaten away. There are floor/ceiling models and curb models that calculate safe withdrawal rates based not just on inflation but also on portfolio earnings. The one certainty about future inflation and portfolio earnings is that they will change. This almost certainly means that a static solution (like a fixed COLA) will be incorrect at least as often as it is the correct solution over a long period of time.

    It makes sense to include some dynamic modeling into the solution for the OPERS COLA. That will protect OPERS from unintentionally increasing a retiree’s benefit to the detriment of maintaining the OPERS investment portfolio and yet allow flexibility to increase the COLA during times of higher inflation without having to seek board and legislative action. Even more importantly, it won’t make arbitrary changes to retiree benefits. The current range of proposed changes have not been adequately justified. The currently stated reasons for making a change are mostly unfounded or at the best debatable.

    The other important aspect of the COLA solution is that it has to be balanced. Yes, protect the OPERS investment portfolio but also insure retirees against periods of high inflation that can pretty quickly lead them to a path below the federal poverty level. None of the current proposals even consider this possibility.

  64. Catherine says:

    Finally received the survey yesterday, Sept. 2. The postmark was August 29th. HMMM. Completed the survey., Thank you for all of the postings here on PERI. They really helped. As others have suggested I was very careful when answering the questionnaire, especially numbers 10, 11 and 12. I did not choose any of the options, crossed them all out and put none as acceptable with numerous comments in the margin. If any of those options for questions 10, 11 and 12 were chosen OPERS might assume those as an endorsement of their plan. I also gave OPERS the options of increasing current employee/employer contributions, reducing OPERS staff and their salaries and benefits, reducing investment charges and reducing other OPERS operating costs. I also suggested OPERS stop awarding questionable medical retirements which is partially what placed the police and fire pension in financial peril.

  65. RJ says:

    I also appreciate the comments on this website. I agree that the COLA Survey, I received from OPERS, on September 2, 2017, was skewed so those who answered could not voice any opposition to OPER’s plan to reduce COLA. I did not answer questions 10,11,12 and only posted comments that the COLA was promised to me in 2012. I also like the fact that many people noted that the percentage rate of our fixed 3% COLA is actually reduce over time.

  66. RPM says:

    1. Please indicate your category.
    □ I am a retiree
    2. How many years have you been retired? (Please choose only one.)
    □ 6-10 years
    3. How many years of service credit did you have when you retired? (Please choose only one.)
    □ More than thirty years
    4. How important was the COLA in determining WHEN you decided to retire?
    Very Important 6
    5. How important is it to you to have a health care program provided by OPERS in your retirement?
    Very Important 6
    6. How important is it to you to have a COLA provided by OPERS in your retirement?
    Very Important 6
    7. How important is it to you to that OPERS continues to have funding for the long term?
    Very Important 6
    8. In the last 30 years the OPERS COLA was higher than inflation 60 percent of the time. Do you think it is reasonable to align all COLAs with inflation?
    □ No
    Why or why not?
    Where is your proof that the OPERS COLA was higher than inflation 60 percent of the time? What indicator(s) would you use in future to provide a fair COLA? You are using this survey as a device to renege on your promises concerning COLAs made by OPERS and posted in OPERS Quarterly Newsletters during the OPERS Healthcare System change starting in 2012.
    9. Do you think OPERS should provide a COLA every year regardless of financial condition of the system.
    □ No
    Why or why not?
    I expect my OPERS administrators to make sure that we maintain the system with the finest financial over-site and investment teams so that OPERS never gets to a point of weak financial condition. Such shepherding will maintain OPERS as the premier public retirement system in Ohio and perhaps the United States.
    The answer to questions 10, 11 and 12 is None of the above. We are told that we are funded to 80% of our pension obligations which should carry us well into the 2030’s. In addition we are at the end of the low interest and low energy price cycle and the beginning of full employment. Inflation is on the horizon and this is not the time to reduce our member’s standard of living.

    13. Please provide any additional comments you e about the COLA.

    Since 1914 until present there has only been 11 years reported with a negative inflation number. Historically for most years over time there is inflation. In fact in the last 50 years the mean average for inflation was 3.22%. The 3% COLA promised to retirees is based on their original retirement benefit and does not compound. Therefore, it diminishes each year for the retiree. For retires that retired before 2013 would equate to a 2.4 % after 10 years , and 1.9% after 20 years. If we agreed to a lower COLA would you agree to start compounding it? I sincerely doubt it.

  67. Alan says:

    Here is the plain and simple facts of this proposed change. I retired in 2002, on my anniversary date in 2003 I received a COLA equal to 3% of my benefit. On my anniversary in 2017 I received a COLA that was 2% of my current benefit. This was due to the fact that the 3% COLA is based on what benefit I received at retirement. I can understand a COLA adjustment if the 3% were compounded every year, but it is not. This is the reality of it, My COLA is already going down. In 2003 I received 3% COLA, in 2022, 20 years in retirement, my COLA will fall to 1.8% thus dropping my COLA 1.2%! Whose to say that if they make this change they will base the COLA on your benefit at retirement? On a final note, in my 30+ years of service whenever anyone would start talking percentages instead of actual numbers I would tell them “Figures don’t lie but liars figure”

  68. Jim says:

    It is my understanding that the idea to cut pensions for current retirees was not brought to a regular board meeting but rather was first broached at a retreat. I hope that PERI will issue a sample letter for our members that we can use as a model for writing to our state senators and representatives.

  69. Chuck Heimbaugh says:

    OPERS is comparing APPLES TO ORANGES in their statement made in an email sent to all retirees on 8/4/17: “The CPI has topped 3 percent only five times during the past 25 years, so OPERS’ fixed COLA has resulted in a net benefit increase for many retirees.” An analysis of the history of the CPI-U over the last 25 full years (1991-2016) refutes this statement.

    Over this period, the CPI-U has increased 76%, for an average annual increase of 2.29%. An assumed 3% per year FLAT increase (simple interest that is not compounded) in OPERS COLA over this same period would result in a 75% total increase, or 2.26% average annual increase in our pensions. A pension that began in 1991 would have received a 1.74% annual increase in the latest adjustment (2015-2016).

    Historically, the current system of granting a fixed flat rate of 3% per year to those who retired prior to January 2013 has effectively kept our pensions in step with the cost of living. There is a well-known saying that applies as OPERS considers revising the COLA: “IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT.”

  70. FRANK ZANGARA says:

    I do not accept any change to the OPERS current retirees COLA. We were promised a 3% simple annual COLA. I and many others retired early to lock in our 3%.
    I am appalled at OPERS trying to deny us what was and currently is law and to worsen the matter they inform us that they are financially sound and can pay it.
    NO CHANGE! PERIOD!

  71. FRANK ZANGARA says:

    NO CHANGE! PERIOD!

  72. Jerry says:

    In 2012 legislation was passed for all Ohio retirement systems. The other systems STRS, SERS, police and fire and highway patrol had their contributions increased.
    PERS contributions stayed the same stating “no increase to taxpayers”. Since PERS is voted on by the Ohio legislature who are members of PERS of course they did
    not increase their contributions. Instead they took away medical coverage for retirees. Now they are taking away our COLA and of course they will vote for it.

    PERS is not and has not been in financial trouble like the other four systems. Much of it self inflicted like STRS which increased yearly retirement percentage to 2.5%
    and was giving a 13th bonus check every year equal to the monthly retirement amount.

    Most probably the reduction or elimination of COLA for existing retirees would lose if taken to court because it has been looked at as a protected benefit by courts
    in other states like California and Illinois..

    The problem is who would take it to court. Unions don’t care because they mainly represent workers not retirees. PERS is the originator of the COLA elimination and PERI is
    usually just been their rubber stamp. Retirees have no way of fighting it.

    The PERS questionnaire sent out states that the COLS was higher than inflation 60% of the time. It is misleading because it looks at years not actual inflation which was as high
    as 6% in some years. In actually the PERS 3% COLA was only 9.1% higher than inflation BUT inflation is compounded while PERS COLA is not. Inflation compounded over the last
    30 years is 221%.

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry,
      Why do the retirees have no way to fight this?
      Retirees need to find a way. I know there has to be many retired former State Lawyers who receive OPERS pensions that are going to be affected by these proposed changes. We need their input and advise on how to proceed.
      If we do nothing that is exactly what we will get.
      What will OPERS want to take back next?
      With the amount of retirees in OPERS, I am amazed at the small amount of comments there have been on both the OPERS and PERI web sites.
      Although I am convinced that OPERS is not posting the negative comments, because both I and others have posted comments on the PERI web site indicating that our comments are under moderation, and are never posted by OPERS.

  73. William Kaiser says:

    OPERS Executive Director Karen Carraher insists retirees have not sacrificed, and that is a point of emphasis behind the COLA cuts for retirees. Well, lets talk about sacrifice then.
    Here are the 2014 salaries of some of OPERS top leaders, according to The Ohio Treasurer’s Transparency Project:
    Karen Carraher (Executive Director)—$253,612.54
    Richard Shafer(Chief investment Officer)–$407,358.56
    Julie Becker(General Counsel)–$207,613.84
    Greg Slone (Interim Director-Internal Audit)–$127,548.00
    Allen Foster (Director-Benefits)–$144,818.60

    With this information, it is obvious that OPERS is sitting comfortably inside their glass house, throwing stones at us peasants. Sacrifice ? On those salaries, I’m not sure they can even spell the word, but I’m sure they have staff that can do that for them.

    PERI leadership needs to get busy. This “proposed” change was announced a month ago, and I’m sure the PERI leadership knew what was brewing long before that. We need PERI’s voice, and it needs to be loud and clear. OPERS made a promise when I retired. They have already reneged on that promise once, with healthcare premiums. Will PERI stand by and watch them take our COLA also ?

    • Hilou says:

      William is correct, but that was 2014 salaries. Look at the 2016 salaries for the same people he listed. They got increases in excess of 4% (compounded not simple) in 2015 and 2016.
      This is public information on the Ohio Treasurers, State Salary web site, Treasurer Transparency Project, under Pension Plan Salaries..

  74. Jerry says:

    In 2012 legislation was passed for all Ohio retirement systems. The other systems STRS, SERS, police and fire and highway patrol had their contributions increased.
    PERS contributions stayed the same stating “no increase to taxpayers”. Since PERS is voted on by the Ohio legislature who are members of PERS of course they did
    not increase their contributions. Instead they took away medical coverage for retirees. Now they are taking away our COLA and of course they will vote for it.

    PERS is not and has not been in financial trouble like the other four systems. Much of it self inflicted like STRS which increased yearly
    retirement percentage to 2.5% and was giving a 13th bonus check every year equal to the monthly retirement amount.

    Most probably the reduction or elimination of COLA for existing retirees would lose if taken to court because it has been looked at as a protected benefit
    by courts in other states like California and Illinois.

    The problem is who would take it to court. Unions don’t care because they represent workers not retirees. PERS is the originator of the COLA elimination
    and PERI has been their rubber stamp. Retirees have no way of fighting it.

    The PERS questionnaire sent out states that the COLS was higher than inflation 60% of the time. It is misleading because it looks at years not actual
    inflation which was as high as 6% in some years. In actually the PERS 3% COLA was only 9.1% higher than inflation BUT inflation is compounded
    PERS COLA is not. Inflation compounded over the last 30 years is 221%.

  75. Retiree says:

    I have tried to post some information under the comments section on the OPERS website but they apparently don’t want people to see it. After several days my comments are still “awaiting moderation”. I will try and post them here. There are 3 of them.
    Retiree
    September 2, 2017 at 9:35 am
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Please everyone read these few paragraphs from an OPERS blog from 2015 where they state 2 very important things. 1, assets are at an all time high and 2, that retiree liabilities are in a separate fund from active members and are funded at 100%.

    “Most recently, OPERS and the other Ohio public pension systems were admonished for not attaining progress fast enough after achieving pension redesign in 2012.

    Obviously, we disagree. Pension system performance needs to be measured over decades, not short periods of time. The pension reforms passed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2012 and health care changes passed by the OPERS Board of Trustees are having their intended effect despite being in place for only three years. Our asset levels are at an all-time high of $91.2 billion due, in part, to the changes.

    The myth is that all of the unfunded liabilities can be due at any one time – thus, the money is “owed.” This is simply not true. Your home mortgage isn’t due all at once, and the same is true of a pension system. It is illogical to assume a pension system should have cash on hand to pay off liabilities all at once.

    As a matter of fact, we monitor pension liabilities in two categories: retirees and active members. Retiree liabilities are funded at 100% through a separate fund. What is currently being funded is the ultimate pension liability that will eventually be due for active members that are still working.”

    These were OPERS’s own words. If the retiree fund is at 100% why should we who retired on the promise of a guaranteed 3% COLA have to suffer to fund future retirees? I along with many others chose to retire earlier than I had planned for one reason only, to lock in the 3% COLA. I hadn’t planned on retiring yet but I felt pressured to do so because in the long term it was more beneficial to have the 3% COLA. Is OPERS going to give me back the extra 2.5% per year of FAS I gave up to lock in the COLA they promised me? I am finding it increasingly difficult to believe anything that they have to say anymore. If they don’t think retirees have been hit hard enough already with the unexpected healthcare premiums they are sadly mistaken. Those of us who retired with over 30 years were not expecting to pay anything and are now paying 25%. Some may say that’s not a lot but I did my financial planning based on the things OPERS promised. Yes I know healthcare was never a guarantee but the 3% annual COLA was. OPERS, if you can’t hold up your end of a contract you made only 5 years ago what are we to believe going forward?

    • Jim says:

      I too have tried to post to the OPERS blog. I have comments that have been “Awaiting Moderation” for more than a week. No one should feel that they care what we think.

  76. Retiree says:

    Retiree
    September 5, 2017 at 1:34 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I strongly disagree with you. OPERS did extensive pension reform just 5 years ago. The effect of the COLA was obviously factored in at that time. That is why the changes to the COLA were made to those who were not retired prior to 2013. They knew the impact of leaving it as is for those already retired and if they didn’t then they weren’t doing their job. They said that the pension reform in 2013 would keep the system strong well into the future. If those in OPERS responsible for making these decisions can’t see beyond 5 years down the road then they shouldn’t have that job.
    I have lost all faith in OPERS. I believe they are lying to us and are just using a current trend of going after retirees COLA’s to save some money. We can’t just sit back and let them do this . This time it’s our COLA. What will it be in another 5 years?

    Reply

  77. Retiree says:

    Retiree
    September 5, 2017 at 5:34 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Here is another inconsistency. In her video, Karen Carraher states that the 3% COLA has outpaced inflation 60% of the time over the last 3 decades. Yet in an OPERS blog from 2011 they stated that the CPI averaged 3.17% per year over the last 3 decades. Which is it?

    *** from an April 2011 OPERS blog***
    Our proposal is to link cost of living adjustments for future retirees to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measurement based on a market basket of goods and services. The maximum increase would be 3 percent. Over the past three decades, the CPI has averaged 3.17 percent per year. Our projection for the next 30 years is that the CPI will average 2.8 percent annually.
    Based on our proposal, current retirees would retain the 3 percent COLA. The new adjustment would apply to anyone whose effective date of retirement comes on or after the effective date of the legislation, which is typically 90 days after the governor signs it. To be fully grandfathered, a member’s last day of work should be in the month preceding the effective date of the legislation.
    Published in PERSpective (OPERS blog), April 7, 2011

    Reply

    • John says:

      One of the problems in understanding and talking about CPI and COLA is that CPI is measured in compound interest and COLA is awarded in simple interest. We should use either compound interest OR simple interest. It is too confusing if we use both and then try to explain the difference.

      Does anyone know the value of CPI over the last 25 years if it is measured in Simple Interest, starting in 1992?

      When they compare CPI (Compounded Interest) to COLA (Simple or Non-Compounded Interest) they are comparing two different fruits and calling them both apples.

  78. Jerry M. says:

    Retirees need to contact members of the general assembly and bring these excessive Opers salaries to their attention!

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry. The more research I do the worse things look. I thought it was bad enough that Karen Carraher’s Chief Investment Officer earned $611,496 in 2016, but then I found that he has a Deputy Investment Director, Paul Greff, who earned $458,003 for 2016. That’s $1,069,499 paid to two directors, and most likely they both have a staff of people who do the actual investing. How much is the Pension Fund spending on investing? I would be interested in knowing how many people are paid by the Pension Fund, and what the total payroll was in 2016. Maybe there is some room for some belt tightening by OPERS, before any more reductions and changes are made on the backs of the current retirees.
      Who is responsible to make sure the Pension Board of Directors is properly overseeing Karen Carraher, and her staff?

  79. John says:

    If you are interested in my responses….

    1. Please indicate your category.
    □ I am a retiree

    2. How many years have you been retired? (Please choose only one.)
    □ 6-10 years

    3. How many years of service credit did you have when you retired? (Please choose only one.)
    □ More than thirty years

    4. How important was the COLA in determining WHEN you decided to retire?
    Very Important 6

    5. How important is it to you to have a health care program provided by OPERS in your retirement?
    Important 5

    6. How important is it to you to have a COLA provided by OPERS in your retirement?
    Very Important 6

    7. How important is it to you to that OPERS continues to have funding for the long term?
    Very Important 6

    8. In the last 30 years the OPERS COLA was higher than inflation 60 percent of the time. Do you think it is reasonable to align all COLAs with inflation?

    Why or why not?
    Your statement implies an untruth. Retirees are NOT beating inflation 60% of the time.

    The COLA should be tied to inflation without a cap. If inflation is high then Return on Investment should also be high

    9. Do you think OPERS should provide a COLA every year regardless of financial condition of the system.

    Why or why not?
    The integrity of the system should be preserved but this hypothetical does not apply if we are told the truth that the system is healthy.

    10. If OPERS were to freeze COLAs for all retirees, which of the following options would you prefer?
    Tell me the implications and how I’ll be affected before I choose.

    11. if OPERs were to adjust the cap to be the same for everyone, which of the following options would you support?
    None, but 2.5% is the best of the options.

    12. Which of the following options would be your preference if you had to choose ONE?
    Before choosing I need to understand the effects of each option.

    13. Please provide and additional comments you have about the COLA.
    I would trade the 3% COLA for an uncapped COLA which matched inflation.

  80. jERRY M. says:

    It now seems obvious why Opers has proposed a cut of the 3% C.O.L.A. for retirees 2012 and years prior with a healthy pension system. This is the only way to maintain these excessive Opers salaries for the long term. Do not allow Opers to take retirees for fools! Retirees need to write letters to Opers to let them know we are on to them! Contact members of the general assembly and bring these excessive Opers salaries to their attention! http://WWW.OHIOGENERALASSEMBLY.GOV

  81. Jim says:

    The survey from OPERS starts off with the false premise that I received a 3% COLA. I only received a 3% COLA after my first year. 2 years ago it was only 2.31% this year it was 2.26% and next year it will only be 2.21% because our COLA does not compound. For the last 2 years I did not receive 6% but only 4.57% due to this fixed dollar amount.
    I think this is why I was so outraged when I thought about the posts here by William Kaiser and Hilou on September 6th 2017.
    OPERS Executive Director, Karen Carraher, was paid $253,612.54 for 2014. She then received 4% increases for the next two years. This brings her pay to $274,307.32 a $20,694.38 increase in 2 years. this represents an 8.16% increase because her 4% increase compounds instead of being a simple one like our COLA. This more than $20,000 increase is more than many of our retirees make for the entire year. Richard Shafer, OPERS Chief investment officer, was paid $407,358.56 in 2014. He also received 4% increases the next two years bringing his total salary to $440,599.01. Due to compounding his 4% increase each year was actually another 8.16% increase. This increased his salary by $33,240.45. This is more than most OPERS retirees make for their retirement for a year.
    For OPERS to complain that current retirees are not sacrificing is outrageous in light of their huge salary increases. When I first retired I was told that my health insurance would be zero cost to me and 90% paid for my wife. I was also told I would receive a 3% increase every year – being a simple and fixed dollar amount. My wife’s Healthcare was now eliminated and I pay 25% of my costs. Now they want us to cut our own COLAs.
    For those of us who spent 30 years working in the state’s mental hospitals, prisons, road crews, law enforcement, etc, this is a slap in the face.
    We must all begin writing now to the state legislators. Especially those who are in charge of retirement. I know I will.

  82. Dean says:

    One of OPERS proposals was the freeze the COLA for 5 years. Assume your COLA is 800 a year, you life expectancy is 86, and you current age is 66. Over your you life time this is a pension reduction of about $75,000. More if you live longer. How many got an extra $75,000 laying around to make this up?

  83. Jim says:

    I apologize for merely extrapolating the wages for OPERS Chief Executive, Karen Carraher and Chief Investment Officer, Richard Shafer.

    Today, I went to the Ohio Treasurer website and actually looked up the correct numbers. Here are the correct numbers.
    CEO Karen Carraher, 2014: $253,612.54. 2015: $264,517.87 and 2016: $276,169.60. This represent an 8.89% increase over 2 years.
    CIO Richard Shafer, 2014: $407,358.56. 2015: $543,473.58 and 2016: $611,496.17. This is over 50% increase in 2 years.

    I contributed to OPERS for more than 30 years. I was assured that OPERS was administered by individuals who would exercise a fiduciary duty toward my monies. I was assured that like any other annuity, I would receive a set dollar amount and a fixed dollar amount after one year and for each year thereafter.

    I find it unconscionable to hear these people expounding on my too long living and too high living as my COLA races toward less than 2% while they extract 9 and 50 percent increases for themselves.

    Perhaps as they say, that the monies I paid were never meant to exceed the current low CPI, but I know for sure that my monies were never meant to make multi-millionaires out of those who manage them.

    • Hilou says:

      Jim,
      Great comments. I am glad you showed the progressive wage increases for these two people so other retirees see them
      In my previous comment, I noted that I found that Richard Shaffer also has a Deputy Investment Director, Paul Greff, who earned $458,003.00 in 2016.
      What you have shown is only one of Karen Carraher’s eleven executive staff members. The Executive Director and her executive staff had total wages exceeding $2.6 million in 2016. I am sure these wages come out of the income from the pension fund investments. That amount equals about what 130 retirees like me receive, and I am sure many retirees receive less.
      And those are only the Executive staff salaries, and does not inlude any of the seven bloggers, and the unknown amount of staff members that actually do the day to day work.

    • Susan Litton says:

      In 2015, OPERS investment returns fell by about 98% or $5.7 billion (2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Page28, Table 1, line 4).

      This 99.8% decrease in earnings was followed by a $68,000 salary increase for the CIO, resulting in a 50% salary increase in two years.

      I would like to see more about this, as part of the COLA discussions.

  84. Jim says:

    Thank you for pointing out the treasurer’s website. I don’t understand how someone goes up almost a quarter million dollars in 2 years. This came out of our account balances.

    I will get the names of all the senators and representatives on retirement committees and send my letter with this information.

  85. OPERS compared APPLES TO ORANGES in an email sent to retirees on 8/4/17 titled “OPERS considers changes to retiree COLA.” The email stated: “The CPI has topped 3 percent only five times during the past 25 years, so OPERS’ fixed COLA has resulted in a net benefit increase for many retirees.” An analysis comparing the CPI-U over the last 25 full years (1991-2016) to the OPERS COLA refutes this statement. The analysis shows that the annual increase in the CPI-U exceeded the annual increase in the OPERS COLA in 14 of the 25 years.

    Over this period, the CPI-U has increased 76.23%, for an average annual increase of 2.29%. An assumed 3% per year FLAT increase (simple interest that is not compounded) in OPERS COLA over this same period would result in a 75.00% total increase, or 2.26% average annual increase in our pensions. A pension that began in 1991 would have received a 1.74% annual increase in the latest adjustment (2015-2016).

    Historically, the current system of providing an annual fixed flat 3% COLA to those who retired prior to January 2013 has effectively kept our pensions in step with the cost of living. There is a well-known saying that applies as OPERS considers revising the COLA: “IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT.”

  86. Susan Litton says:

    I greatly appreciate the comments about the proposed change in the COLA: OPERS’ “apples and oranges” comparison of simple interest (our COLA) and compound interest (inflation); the high salaries of OPERS financial staff; the misleading design of the survey; the contractual status of the 3% COLA; and our reliance on the guarantee of the COLA when planning retirement dates.

    I would like to add three more:

    1. In 2014 OPERS earnings on investments were $5.7 billion. In 2015 investment earnings were only $9.5 million (down 99.8%). To earn that $9.5 million, OPERS paid $428.2 million in external asset management fees or about $40 in fees for each dollar those fees earned – for us, with our money!

    My mind is swimming as I write down these numbers. I find them hard to believe, but they come directly from the OPERS financial reports.

    Is this drop of over $5 billion in earnings what we are REALLY being asked to pay for if we forfeit our COLA?

    2. When OPERS changed the health insurance options, I ran numerous spread sheets to try to figure out which plan to choose for my husband and myself. I went out 25 years and I included the COLA in the estimates. Yes, I can modify our health insurance, but I relied on OPERS in good faith, and, to put it mildly, my confidence in OPERS is shaken..

    3. Again, when OPERS changed the health insurance options, I distinctly remember the question being asked, by a retiree at an informational meeting, “Who is paying Towers Watson for OneExchange?” The answer was, “It is financed by the insurance companies.” But now, if I look at my transactions on the website, I see a monthly fee of $2.33, or 27.96 per year. Multiplied by the 200,000 or so active retirees using the system, that makes $5.5 million that we are collectively paying for a system that was to be “paid for by the insurance companies.”

    Since this service was to be funded by the insurance companies, I believe OPERS should recover it from Towers Watson and either put it back in the pot to be invested on our behalf, or reimbursed to each retiree’s account.

    How is this issue related to the COLA? In this way: I fear that our retirement fund is being milked by “services” that are being paid “fees” and that we in turn will pay for these fees by losing our cost-of-living adjustment.

    I will return my questionnaire tomorrow, in time for the extended September 15 deadline, and I will include these points in an accompanying letter.

  87. RPM says:

    The Cut the COLA debacle came up at a board “retreat” in July at Mohican State Park Conference Facility. As OPERS members, we should be allowed to view all transcripts of the meeting.

  88. Rick says:

    There are far more comments here than on the related OPERS Blog at

    I suggest commenting on that site also to make sure the OPERS leadership sees it. Here is my comment that is as yet “waiting moderation”

    “What we have here is a survey to determine retirees thoughts about OPERS abrogating the legislative contract that they have been under for the past number of years. The attitude is that money can be saved by reneging on that contract and trying to find a way to get the legislature to assist in legally stealing what had been contractually promised to retirees. I have not been very politically active in the past but intend to get VERY political if this should ever be presented to the legislature. We will be sure to let voters know of their respective representatives’ attitude toward retirees. Is the Board at OPERS so politically stacked as to actually pass this plan for legal theft? If so, then it is time for our representatives to know that OPERS needs some repair at the very top.”

    • Hilou says:

      Rick,
      The reason there are more posts here than on the OPERS blog is because OPERS is not posting comments that they deem to be against their objective.
      I have made five comments on the OPERS blog over last weekend that were shown to be under moderation, but were never posted.
      There are comments from others on this blog indicating that their comments are not being posted either.
      I guess there is not much we can do about that.
      Retirees need to be writing our legislators. However there are 99 Representatives and 33 Senators. I am sure not all of them are involved in the early stages of any legislation. I am sure there is a specific committee in both the House and Senate that retirees should be writing to, but I do not know what it is. I asked this question to Julie on the OPERS blog, and of course it was not posted or answered.

      • Mike says:

        All my comments have been removed, you would never be allowed to comment things posted here. Someone must stay up all night removing them. I’ve had posts I made at 2;00AM removed within an hour.

  89. Rick says:

    Looks like the OPERS blog address got clipped from my comment. We’ll try again It’s at

    http://perspective.opers.org/index.php/2017/08/30/opers-considers-cola-changes/

  90. William Kaiser says:

    Apparently, the salary of senior staff is “Top Secret” as OPERS refuses to allow any post mentioning the subject on their Facebook page. Yet they continue to claim transparency ?
    They’re only transparent when its convenient for them.

  91. Dean Vorhees says:

    What an absolute mess. If OPERS reduces the COLA, doesn’t this need to be done in a fair manor? What does OPERS do with retirees that took PLOP as part of their pension? These folks are really advantaged because they received funds In advance. So are retirees who have been retired a long time. Newer retirees are more adversely affected over their life times.

    Hopefully PERI will quit being the OPERS auxiliary and take this issue to court if needed.

  92. Jerry M. says:

    I was just on Opers website, They said the surveys are coming in and they have received about 60,000 so far. Gee Whiz, I wonder how many of these surveys support the the proposed cut in retiree c.o.l.a.?

    • John says:

      Don’t be surprised if a fair number support the cut. One person who was subjected to the last cut told me:
      “I got cheated; why shouldn’t you?”

      • Hilou says:

        Rick,
        The reason there are more posts here than on the OPERS blog is because OPERS is not posting comments that they deem to be against their objective.
        I have made five comments on the OPERS blog over last weekend that were shown to be under moderation, but were never posted.
        There are comments from others on this blog indicating that their comments are not being posted either.
        I guess there is not much we can do about that.
        Retirees need to be writing our legislators. However there are 99 Representatives and 33 Senators. I am sure not all of them are involved in the early stages of any legislation. I am sure there is a specific committee in both the House and Senate that retirees should be writing to, but I do not know what it is. I asked this question to Julie on the OPERS blog, and of course it was not posted or answered.

      • Hilou says:

        John,
        Interesting comment. I guess those retirees who retired after 1/7/2013, could care less about older retirees 3% cola, because as of 1/1/2019 they will get only the CPI percentage.
        However there were take backs effective 1/7/13 and now they want take backs effective 1/1/19. Maybe they will care when the next take backs are proposed for 2023 if OPERS waits that long for the next round of take backs.

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry,
      I find it very disappointing that as of 9/14/17 there were only 60,000 surveys returned, when there are over 208,000 current retirees receiving benefits.
      It is also disappointing to me that there are less than 100 people making comments on the OPERS and PERI blog sites.
      It is hard to believe that more retirees are not concerned about the proposed changes in the COLA.
      Also no response from PERI yet.

      • John says:

        I once received a survey from a politician with questions like:
        Do you support the president’s radical plan to destroy the economy and move good paying jobs to foreign countries.

        There was no correct answer. Why bother and return the survey. You know the result. Someone is going to claim that over 90% of respondents have made the same conclusion that the surveyor wanted them to make.

    • Dean, if you take a plop at retirement you get less on your retirement over your or your spouse life time. I don.t see your point about being advantaged. Also if you retired 15 years ago you have to remember that retiree was making way less than if you retired in 2017. So that would mean your cola would be based on 2002 income.

  93. William Kaldy says:

    I ran some numbers on an Excel spreadsheet to compare various cola calculations. Retiring in 2005 at $35,000 per year at 60 years old, here are some future numbers. Year 2005 $35,000.
    2020 at 75 yrs: OPERS 3% COLA=$50,750 / 2% real COLA=$47,105. /. 3% real COLA=$54,528. /. OPERS 2%=$45,500
    2030 at 85 yrs: $61,250 $57,421 $73,282 $52,500
    2040 at 95 yrs: $71,750. $69,996 $98,485 $59,500
    A 2% COLA calculated like our current COLA would leave us way behind the real cost of living.

    • Dean, i have to pay 14,000 dollars next year for my spouse health care. When i retired in 2011 her cost was 90 dollars a month. My spouse can’t work anymore due to a medical injury. She is only 61 years old and it will cost me 56,000 dollars to cover her till 65 years old. Trust me the ACA isn’t what people think it is. No i don’t feel advantaged.

  94. Mike says:

    You’ll be lucky to make a comment on Ohio Pers facebook page, they remove everything they don’t like and then refer to their posting policy. You can like or disagree with the survey, but when you make other suggestions where cuts can be made your posts are removed.

    • Hilou says:

      Mike,
      I read your posting, and looked back at my posting dated 9/14 on this blog, where I indicated that the five postings I had made on the OPERS
      blog on the weekend of 9/09 and 9/10, that had been shown as under moderation, have never been posted by OPERS.
      I just reviewed the OPERS blog, and found that every posting I have made on the blog since this topic came to light in August have now been removed. These are postings that had appeared on the OPERS blog, and are now removed.
      I just saw one or two more postings from other people on this blog indicating the same thing.
      I guess OPERS now controls our freedom of speech.

  95. Jerry M. says:

    Hi Hilou, You made some great points. P.e.r.i. is telling retirees they have a plan and are talking to opers. Also remember, Opers are telling people on their website they had received over 60,000 surveys. At this point, we need to take what Opers is saying with a grain of salt.

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry,
      I have yet to see anything in print from PERI indicating ” that they have a plan and are talking to OPERS concerning the proposed COLA changes”.
      If you have seen something in print I would like to know where I can read it.
      I know the 2017 Annual Perri Meeting is coming up on 10/9/17, at the Crown Plaza in Nothwest Columbus, and apparently Karen Carraher, OPERS Executive Director, is scheduled to speak at that meeting. If she shows up.
      I would love to attend that meeting, however I have had to return to work to supplement my retirement income and cannot take off work to attend. If I didn’t live 125 miles from Columbus I would work it out somehow.
      I hope there are many other retired OPERS members that are able to attend that meeting and do so, and then report what they hear .at that meeting on this blog.

  96. Dean says:

    Ohio Revised Code

    145.561 Acquiring vested right in pension when granted.
    (A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section and section 145.363, 145.573, or 145.574 of the Revised Code, the granting of a retirement allowance, annuity, pension, or other benefit to any person pursuant to action of the public employees retirement board vests a right in such person, so long as the person remains the recipient of any benefit of the funds established by section 145.23 of the Revised Code, to receive such retirement allowance, annuity, pension, or other benefit at the rate fixed at the time of granting such retirement allowance, annuity, pension, or other benefit. Such right shall also be vested with equal effect in the recipient of a grant heretofore made from any of the funds named in section 145.23 of the Revised Code.

    (B) This section does not apply to an increase made under section 145.323 of the Revised Code for a recipient whose benefit effective date is on or after the effective date of this amendment.

  97. Dean says:

    The translation is retirees were granted the cola as part of a vested pension in 2012.

    • Hilou says:

      Dean,
      I am not saying you are wrong. However Julie Graham-Price, OPERS blogger, posted a response on the OPERS blog, to Jim Martin’s 9/1/17 comment, on 9/5/17, that stated “It is settled law that COLAs to be granted in future years DO NOT VEST”.
      Who is correct on this vesting issue?

  98. William Kaiser says:

    Just looked at the Health Care Calculator on the OPERS web site, since OPERS hasn’t felt the need to get out the open season materials for next year’s health care premiums. OPERS calulator showed the premiums going up just under $100 per month for 2018. This is for the Non-Medicare people. Can’t wait to see what it goes up after they take our COLA away. And yet, PERI still has not made a decision on their position concerning the COLA proposal ?

  99. Michael Roberts says:

    Just wrote to my legislator about OPERS removing comments and in my case, I’m am not allowed to post at all now without me every receiving a warning, no open boxes to type, nor can I like a comment. I think posting the salaries as posting here was when my posting abilities were stopped. What difference does it make to OPERS, it’s public info any ways.
    I have received your email. If it’s OK with you, I’ll forward your email to OPERS leadership and notify
    them of your frustration with the personnel controlling their FB page.

  100. Hilou says:

    Has everyone reviewed Pramik’s, the communication strategists, “More COLA Questions Answered” dated 9/19/17 on the OPERS.org site.
    What do your think ?

    • Michael Roberts says:

      I read it and again I am asking why we are not allowed to offer alternatives to a cut in COLA, such as double dippers which I am one, why not just keep the money instead of giving it back as an annuity, money I would not miss and they need to support the system, eliminate QEBA, you are paying pension out higher than required by IRS rules, perhaps cap pension or put a cap on COLA, say the average wage in Ohio, maybe 51,000, you can get 3 percent up to 51,000 or maybe lower. Pensions are supposed to be capped per IRS rules, yet they continue to pay out to much to high earners thru QEBA. And finally if OPERS mismanaged our money so poorly put their wages back to 2012 and cap any further increases these high paid people get. Also do live actuarial life tables on joint or multiple pension beneficiaries. Leaving your pension to a 20 year spouse is different than leaving it to a same age spouse. Many other things to consider but they have COLA of the mind. Cap pensions on salaries of maybe at 200,000.

  101. Dean says:

    I read and posted on the new link. For a Group C employee, OPERS is representing 70% of a persons five top years at minimum age of 55 with 32 years of service with health care to young employees. Who in their right mind thinks a public employee will be able to retire at age 55 in 20 years? Even if the system was able to financially meet that objective, politically it isn’t going to happen. OPERS needs to get realistic about retirement ages going forward. When they do, the strain on health and Cola will be decreased.

  102. Frank Zangara says:

    I have word …from a very reliable source that the COLA deal is most likely going to be a COLA based on the CPI not to exceed 3%. Sonas with SS manynyears nothing mayne 1% maybe nothing.The same source informed me that the health insurance is wobbly. I received this information yesterday Sept 20th. I have emailed the information to OPERS and advised that I will give them a chance to respond. If they choose not too respond or if the response goes against the information l received l will be publically be calling them out. What does this mean…well whatever it takes including but not limited to newspapers. I am only holding back because this trusted source may not give me any other information if l lose their trust. So what does this mean well if my source is correct and again this is a reliable source if the source is correct the survey was as l thought a sham as is the OPERS video and just about everything else Karen Carrahar has said about the COLA adjustment!

  103. Catherine says:

    I was in the Twin cities (Minn.) a week ago, and the headline in the Pioneer Press was “The Health of State Pensions?… The article included their public pension system cutting COLA. Think all the pension folks went to the same seminar…

    I do wonder, are the employees at pers under our system? The salaries seem really high. Just saying

  104. Jerry M. says:

    Hilou, When I called p.e.r.i. asking about the proposed opers c.o.l.a. changes, They told me they had a plan and are talking to opers.

  105. Dean says:

    OPERS Board cannot vote to change the COLA. It requires the passage on new law.

  106. Ginny says:

    I just read the OPERS blog update of 9-21-17 re: COLA. The blog said no decision has been made to date by the Board of Trustees, but noted the Board listens to feedback from retirees regarding this issue. At the top of the blog page, an empty, splendid boardroom, with computer and microphone at each chair speaks volumes. Who pays for these luxuries and the extraordinary salaries of the higher echelon at OPERS? The Board is considering decreasing or eliminating the COLA for retirees who may not have these luxuries, or at times even basic necessities. Would some cost savings be had through cutting OPERS staff who were added during the 2012 changes to health care and pension change. The high salaries of the people in charge should also come under scrutiny if these individuals are able to bring about changes that impact the lives of so many retirees.

  107. Jerry M. says:

    Ginny, You just made a point everyone needs to consider. Every top Opers employee are at six figures. Some are at sickening six figure incomes. Opers employees enjoy many luxuries and perks that employees at other pension systems can only dream of. I have been told by someone who is involved in the talks with opers that these incomes are comparable with other pension systems. This person also told me that these huge six figure opers incomes are negligible based on 91 to 92 billion dollars of assets. This person also told me not to get caught up in salary envy. This is not salary envy! Opers also needs to make cuts! Do not cut retiree c.o.l.a.!

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry & Ginny
      In regards to OPERS salaries. In 2016 OPERS paid a total of 637 employees.
      – 497 earned under $100,000
      – 95 earned between $100,000 and $200,000
      – 36 earned between $200,000 and $300,000
      – 4 earned between $300,000 and $400,000
      – 3 earned between $400,000 and $500,000
      – 1 earned over $500,000
      – 1 earned over $600,000
      This is information is from the Ohio Treasurers Transperancy Project website.
      This information is not for salary envy purposes.
      In 2012 pension changes were made on the backs of retirees. Now OPERS wants to make COLA changes effective by 1/1/2019 again on the backs of retirees.
      I have yet to read anything about OPERS executives, management, or employees taking salary, bonus, or wage cuts. Maybe they need to offer to take a wage freeze and bear some of the financial pain in their household budgets.

  108. Ginny says:

    Jerry,

    Perhaps the salary issue for the executives is negligible in the scheme of things, however OPERS says it is our partner in our future. A partner by definition is a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business or company with shared risks and profits. In the last five years, OPERS executives may have shared the profits within and for the corporation structure, but current and future retirees felt the brunt of the risks by having their health care decimated, pension rules altered, and now by threatened elimination of the COLA.

    Trust in this partner for my future is wearing thin.

    • Dean says:

      The OPERS investment officer is not overpaid considering he is managing a portfolio the size of OPERS. The marble on the walls at the entrance of the parking garage speaks volumns about the culture at OPERS. But I do agree with Ginny, the new OPERS logo should read “An Unrelyable Partner In Your Future”.

      • Susan says:

        Dean – I must respectfully disagree on your first point. The CIO received a $68,000 raise in 2016. This followed a year in which only $9.5 million was earned on the entire portfolio of investments. That was a drop of over $5.6 BILLION. Or, to put it another way, they earned almost nothing in 2015. But they did pay $480 million in fees to external managers. In other words, for every $1.00 they earned for us that year, they paid out over $40.00 in fees. Not worthy of a $68,000 raise, giving him an annual $611,000 per year, in my opinion.

  109. Disgusted says:

    Is it time to turn our frustrations into a class action lawsuit? Surely there are OPERS retirees that are attorneys that could research whether they can legally change the 3% COLA that so many of us used as the reason to retire when we did. While OPERS was up front about not being required to provide us any medical coverage, they told me if I retired by a certain date that we were “locked in” to the 3% COLA. We all carefully looked at the numbers when we signed on the line. I banked on that 3% to help cover the increased medical premiums. Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate they would slash my medical coverage so drastically, with less coverage and higher deductibles and larger premiums, but now they want to take away what little we get to try to cover a portion of the difference. They have moved the goal posts down the field many times since my retirement in 2010. It was never disclosed to me that my COLA could be on the chopping block. In fact, it was stated that we would be “locked in” so how can they just unlock the door and change this when the fund is stable?

    • Hilou says:

      Disgusted,
      I agree with your comments.
      I have also mentioned in several of my comments on this blog, that I know there has to be numerous retired state agency attorneys out there reading these comments.
      I wish that one or more of them would way in on this COLA matter, and offer there expertise as attorneys.
      I have no idea if a class action lawsuit is possible or not.
      And if it means there is nothing we can do at least tell us so.
      The only thing I know for sure is, if we let them take away the 3% COLA, what will they want to take next.

  110. Ginny says:

    The following is a response on the OPERS website re the COLA survey. OPERS received the surveys and said retirees chose the reduced cap as opposed to a freeze. The COLA survey was skewed for an adverse planned outcome. OPERS consideration of retiree feedback
    is ludicrous.

    “We’ve received more than 72,000 responses to the recent COLA survey, plus hundreds of calls, letters, emails and social media posts. While we understand members and retirees would prefer no change to the current structure, based on retiree survey feedback, 70 percent of respondents prefer a reduced cap instead of a freeze. Because of this feedback, the Board has focused on changes to the cap rather than a COLA freeze.”

    Julie, OPERS

  111. Donna says:

    Ginny – That is exactly what I thought. I posted a comment on their site stating so. I’ll bet they don’t allow it in. Did you send them a comment stating your opinion? I hope so.

    Retirees DO NOT prefer a reduced cap. We prefer that OPERS leaves our COLA as is. They did not list that option on their skewed survey.

  112. Ginny says:

    Donna, I will try, be generally OPERS blocks comments such as mine. So much for true feedback to share!

    • Hilou says:

      Ginny,
      I just posted a comment regarding my 22% increase in Humana Pharmacy monthly premiums for2018. I received the notification today.
      I posted the same comment on this PERI website and on the OPERS website.
      I am waiting to see if OPERS posts my comment, they have not posted the last eight comments I have posted on their website. They show “comment under moderation” when I post the comment, and then the comment disappears.

  113. Hilou says:

    Well I am perplexed at how OPERS thinks that retirees are getting a larger COLA than we deserve.
    Today, 9/23/17, I received the Humana Pharmacy renewal information for 2018 in the mail.
    The monthly premium cost is going up over 22% monthly for both me and my spouse.
    My county property taxes are also going up in excess of 20% in 2018.
    I guess retirees do not need that 3% COLA to survive.

  114. Michael Roberts says:

    Ohio refuses to address one of its biggest problems – Ten states passed laws restricting double-dipping in 2010, and six did in 2009, according to the group and this was a 2011 report, more states are looking at it. Double-dipping can undermine the long-term health of defined-benefit pension systems. These folks don’t pay into OPERS or STRS mostly and take away a job from a person that would pay in. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/07/13/36doubledip_ep.h30.html

  115. Michael Roberts says:

    My comments from the Ohio Pers page linking to this page for people to have unbiased comments was just removed. They don’t want us to organize or have any thoughts about the COLA issue. I merely stated that polite truthful comments are welcome on this page and I put the link, it was removed within 10 minutes as were 6 other comment, there were 106 comment when I posted and when I went back there were 100.

  116. Ginny says:

    Michael,

    I surmise this emphasizes that OPERS has and wants to continue full control over our pension plan, no questions asked and no dissenting comments will be heard or allowed. PERI allows retirees to voice their honest opinion on this website without moderation. As a member of PERI, I would like to know what their plan is to protect retirees interests. Is PERI with us or with OPERS on this issue?

  117. Jim says:

    I’m in the same boat as Micheal. I too had several comments awaiting Moderation that have been removed. I guess awaiting moderation means waiting for deletion.

  118. Karen Weletyk says:

    I filled out the survey but added an additional box to check: NONE OF THE ABOVE
    Does anyone have any insight into why OPERS used our money to hire the “outside”, private firm, TOWERS & WATSON (one exchange). to distribute our own money back to us?
    I don’t remember bring polled on that decision.

    • Michael Roberts says:

      Thanks for the info – you should send it on to Ohio Retirement Study Council
      30 E. Broad Street, 2nd Floor | Columbus, OH 43215
      Phone: 614.228.1346 | Fax: 614.228.0118
      E-mail: info@orsc.org | Web: http://www.orsc.org – with your comments, we are having to be cut when the pension board makes bad decisions. Let me know if you are going to send it. I’m not shy if you don’t want to send it, I will. But info should be presented by others also.

    • Hilou says:

      Dean,
      The “hedgeclippers.org” link was very interesting, and sickening at the same time.
      I hope everyone opens the link, and reads the article.
      It explains why our pension fund balance is where it is.
      The rich get richer at the expense of retirees who are asked to give up earned and promised benefits.
      And this includes Karen Carraher and her eleven executive staff members who earned in excess of $2.3 million in salary and bonuses in 2016.

  119. Dean says:

    Oh, there is more,

    After Enron and Worldcom, it has still been going on.

    http://plunderbund.com/2014/12/31/ohios-public-retirement-funds-again-ripped-off-by-a-new-york-company/

    It is called mismanagement.

  120. Hilou says:

    I attended the “How to use Your Health Reimbusrement Arrangement Seminar” recently.
    I had no issues with the seminar presented. However I noticed that OPERS sent four representives out of Columbus to that seminar. Only one representative presented the entire seminar, and the other three just stood there and watched. One did pass around the microphone for questions, so I would have no problem if two people were sent.
    I guess OPERS has so much help sitting around doing nothing, that they can afford to send that many people.
    If OPERS has that much extra help, maybe the could do some staff reductions, and save the pension fund money.
    I did not attempt to post this comment on the OPERS Prospective web site, because they always delete my comments.

  121. Jerry M. says:

    From what I understand, Opers only received about 70,000 surveys? And the majority of these surveys state they would prefer a c.o.l.a. freeze? It is sad to hear that only 70,000 surveys were returned. That tells me a majority of retirees are disengaged. And out of these 70,000 surveys a majority chose a c.o.l.a. freeze! I must say people continue to amaze me. If this is the case.

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry,
      I am sure you are correct, most retirees must be disengaged. I recently spoke with two retirees that I formerly worked with at a seminar, and neither seemed to know anything about the proposed changes. They said they either they did not get the survey, or just tossed it not knowing what it was.
      Also when I’m attended the recent ” How to Use Your Health Reimbursement Seminar”, I thought for sure that someone would bring up COLA in the question / answer period, but no one did.
      I did not bring it up either, because I knew it was not the right place to bring it up, and I am sure the presenter would have not responded anyway.
      I just cannot believe that the majority of retirees are okay with the proposed changes.
      I had previously asked on the OPERS web site, what committee in the Ohio House and Senate to write to with my concerns about the COLA changes, and received no response.
      So two weeks ago I asked the same question on the Govenors Web site, and have had no response to my question.

    • Hilou says:

      Jerry,
      I am sure you are correct, most retirees must be disengaged. I recently spoke with two retirees that I formerly worked with at a seminar, and neither seemed to know anything about the proposed changes. They said they either they did not get the survey, or just tossed it not knowing what it was.
      Also when I’m attended the recent ” How to Use Your Health Reimbursement Seminar”, I thought for sure that someone would bring up COLA in the question / answer period, but no one did.
      I did not bring it up either, because I knew it was not the right place to bring it up, and I am sure the presenter would have not responded anyway.
      I just cannot believe that the majority of retirees are okay with the proposed changes.
      I had previously asked on the OPERS web site, what committee in the Ohio House and Senate to write to with my concerns about the COLA changes, and received no response.
      So two weeks ago I asked the same question on the Govenors Web site, and have had no response to my question.

  122. Ginny says:

    Hilou, since OPERS nor the Governors website responded, shouldn’t OPERI be giving us information on how to fight these changes? Who really is looking out for retirees, especially ones who are not informed of possible changes or who are unable to voice concern because of infirmities, illness and other problems that are associated with advancing age. OPERS continuously brings up “Baby Boomers” living longer as one of the factors that cause them to enact drastic measures. I think this mantra is another way to assign blame to retirees, rather than OPERS accepting responsibility for past fiscal mismanagement which brought about all changes for present and future retirees since 2012.

    • Hilou says:

      I agree with your comments Ginny.
      I assume someone from PERI reads these comments, and could have advised us of how we can best respond to OPERS proposed changes.
      I guess I will ask them the question directly in my next comment.
      However the COLA proposal has been in discussion on this blog since early August, and I have yet to see anything in print as to PERi’s position on the proposed COLA changes.

  123. Hilou says:

    PERI Staff,
    I and many other retirees would like to contact the Ohio Legislature and voice our concerns over the COLA changes being proposed by OPERS.
    The Ohio Legislature has 99 Representatives and 33 Senators. I am sure that not all these people are involved with the initial stages of any legislation.
    I am sure that there is some committee in both the House and Senate that is the first step in any proposed legislation that OPERS would want to propose before the entire legislature.
    I would appreciate it if you could advise retirees of the name of the committees involved in the House and Senate, and the names of the committee members we should be writing to.
    I have asked this question on the OPERS blog, and the comment was removed, and not responded to.
    I also asked this question on the Govenor’s web site on 9/16/17, and have not received an e-mail response to my question.
    Please respond to my question.

  124. Ron Martin says:

    Wake up people! $1000 in 1972….after 10 years of high inflation had the buying power of $435 by 1982. A 2.5% cap on your cola would do very little to protect you if it happens again. Say no to a cola cap!

  125. Hilou says:

    Completely inappropriate that you would delay future retirees’ start date for their COLA (12 months to 24 months) when you are not freezing current retirees’ COLAs for the exact same amount of time (miss one COLA). When will you ask active members to respond to a survey?

    Reply

    Hilou
    September 30, 2017 at 2:53 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Now OPERS has managed to pit future retirees against current retirees.
    Future retirees should just consider that current retirees who retired prior to 1/7/13 were told that if they retired under the “old retirement system”, that the would get a 3% COLA twelve months after they retire, and every year thereafter. Current retirees are just asking OPERS to live up to the deal they offered us. They offered a proposal to us and we took it.
    Future retirees should just remember not to believe anything OPERS tells you in the future, unless you have a copy in writing signed by the executive director, because her word is obviously no good.

  126. Hilou says:

    Laurel J.
    September 27, 2017 at 2:56 pm
    Completely inappropriate that you would delay future retirees’ start date for their COLA (12 months to 24 months) when you are not freezing current retirees’ COLAs for the exact same amount of time (miss one COLA). When will you ask active members to respond to a survey?

    Reply

    Hilou
    September 30, 2017 at 2:53 pm
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Now OPERS has managed to pit future retirees against current retirees.
    Future retirees should just consider that current retirees who retired prior to 1/7/13 were told that if they retired under the “old retirement system”, that the would get a 3% COLA twelve months after they retire, and every year thereafter. Current retirees are just asking OPERS to live up to the deal they offered us. They offered a proposal to us and we took it.
    Future retirees should just remember not to believe anything OPERS tells you in the future, unless you have a copy in writing signed by the executive director, because her word is obviously no good.

    Reply

  127. Michael Roberts says:

    I have already written my State Senator and Representative and also the Ohio Retirement Study Council where the proposal goes next before becoming a bill. I will continue to push this until I get answer of why other cost savings measures are not being addressed, over 20 states have reduced or eliminated double dipping because it takes a paying member away from OPERS, other States have put a salary cap on wages that can be earned toward a pension, say 150,000, other States are talking about capping a COLA, say the first 40,000 of a pension you get 3 percent and nothing or a greatly reduced rate on anything above that. The actuarial table needs to be looked at for those choosing joint or multiple beneficiaries. Getting a pension and after passing leaving it to a 20 year old who will draw 70 more years is different than leaving it to someone close to your age. The list is extensive for cost saving measures. Investment methods and why investment personnel get a raise when we lose money. They want to cut, lets cut at the top first.

  128. Poor example i don’t know any 60 year old retiree married to a 20 year old. In case you don’t know for every year your spouse is younger than the retiree the spouse gets less of a pension amount. Also we should all stick together. Everybody that retired before Jan.2013 should get the full amount 3%. End double dipping. There is a lot of younger people out there that would love to get started in a career. Double dippers don’t add to the pension system and the employers don’t either.

  129. Jim says:

    I was very upset when I first heard of this latest attack on our pensions. But now that I’ve sent off a dozen letters, I feel better. Another dozen and I will feel even better knowing that I tried.

  130. Michael, the reduction for age of the spouse has always been there. Opers needs to stop the double dipping. They make all of us look bad when the newspapers tells the general public what they make with the huge pension and salary. 95 percent of us are just trying to get by. All the retirees need to let Opers know this.

    • Michael Roberts says:

      Please refer me to where it says that, I have worked with men in their 60 and 70 and then there wife dies and they marry a 30 years old and then retire and leave her the 50/50, where is the reduction in age for this. http://ohioretire.com/eliminate-spousal-pension-shortfalls There is a reduction in pension for leaving a spouse anywhere from 10 to 50 but no further reduction taking in to account the spouse age on a joint or multiple plan. Many places it indicates your pension will be reduced choosing to leave the spouse your pension after retirement and after you are deceased, no where does it says the spouse pension will further be reduced based on their age difference with the primary pension holder.

  131. Jerry M. says:

    I received a letter from Opers and they were saying in the letter that the majority of the 70,000 surveys received most chose a c.o.l.a. reduction? really!

  132. Hilou says:

    Jerry,

    I am sure that the way OPERS processed the results of the survey, that is exactly how the survey came out.
    I am sure that those of us that answered “yes” to question #9. And did not accept one of the OPERS options for the answers to questions # 10, 11, and 12, and wrote in that they do not support any CAP based on the CPI, were either not counted, or counted in support of OPERS premise.
    The survey was a sham. OPERS had only one premise and that was to eliminate or CAP the COLA.
    If anyone really cares about preserving the 3% COLA, they need to start phoning, emailing, or writing letters to the following:

    The Ohio General Assembly oversees the Ohio Retirement System, including OPERS, through the “Ohio Retirement Study Council”.
    There are nine voting members of the council.
    State Representaives:
    – Kirk Schuring, Chairman- 614-752-2438- email = rep48@ohiohouse.gov
    – Rick Carfagna – 614-466-1431 – email= rep68@ohiohouse.gov
    – Dan Ramos – 614-466-5141 – email= rep56@ohiohouse.gov
    State Senators :
    – Steve Wilson, Vice Chairman- 614-466-9737 – email= wilson@ohiosenate.gov
    – Edna Brown – 614-466-5204 -email= brown@ohiosenate.gov
    – Jay Hottinger – 614-466-5838- email= sd31@ohiosenate.gov

    The mailing address for the “Ohio Retirement Study Council” is: 30 East Broad St.- 2nd Floor – Columbus, Ohio 43215
    Phone number- 614-228-1346
    Fax number – 614-228-0118
    There are also three voting members appointed by the Governor:
    – Lora Miller
    – Dr. Thomas Pascarella
    – Third Governor appointee position is vacant at this time.
    Their mailing address is the same as the others, but I could not yet locate their emails or direct phone numbers.

    I am writing, and I hope many others do as well.

  133. They forgot to tell us the 70,000 that said no cuts they did not count.

  134. Hilou says:

    With Ohio having 99 Representatives and 33 Senators, I had asked bothe OPERS and Peri who retirees should be writing to with our objections to the proposed COLA changes by OPERS. Neither OPERS or PERI responded to my question.
    So I did some research on my own and found out the following information, and I am posting it here in case some other retirees might find it useful.
    The Ohio General Assembly oversees all the Ohio Retirement Systems, which includes OPERS, through the “Ohio Retirement Study Council”.
    This is the “committee” that would initially receive any proposed legislative changes that OPERS would want acted upon.
    The Ohio Retirement Study Council has nine voting members of council.
    The “voting members” are who retirees should be writing to, calling, or E-mailing, voicing our concerns.
    These voting members are as follows:
    State Representatives:
    – Kirk Schuring, Chairman – 614-752-2438 – E-mail = rep48@ohiohouse.gov
    – Rick Carfagna – 614-466-1431- E-mail = rep68@ohiohouse.gov
    – Dan Ramos – 614-466-5141 – E-mail= rep56@ohiohouse.gov
    Senators:
    – Steve Wilson, Vice Chairman – 614-466-9737 – E-mail = wilson@ohiosenate.gov
    – Edna Brown – 614-466-5204 – E-mail = brown@ohiosenate.gov
    – Jay Hottinger- 614-466-5838 – e-mail = sd31@ohiosenate.gov
    Governor Appointees:
    – Lora Miller – could not locate her E-mail yet
    – Dr. Thomas Pascarella – could not locate his E-mail yet
    – Third Appointee position currently vacant
    There are four non-voting members also. They are the heads of each of the retirement systems. Karen Carraher is one of them.

    The mailing address for the nine voting members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council is as follows:
    30 East Broad St.- 2nd Floor – Columbus, Oh 43215
    Phone = 614-228-1346
    Fax = 614-228-0118

    These are the nine voting members who will be involved with any legislative changes that OPERS wants to make, and these are the people I am writing to. At this point I see no value in writing to any of the other 30 Senators or 93 Representatives.

  135. John says:

    If OPERS is going to depend on a majority of retirees to determine how to recommend pension changes why don’t they let a majority decide the compensation of their executive staff?

    I expect they think that’s a bad idea. I am certain that putting my pension up for a vote is a bad idea. Why would someone who feels that they’ve been cheated think I should get a fair shake?

  136. RP MacKenzie says:

    Ohio’s legislative committee on retirement is meeting soon concerning OPERS COLA issue.
    I just sent 6 senators and representatives this letter.

    Dear Ohio State Senators and Representatives:
    Recently I read and article about Michael Sabia, head of Quebec’s largest pension fund. This guy is a great public servant who truly looks out for his wards, namely other public servants in regard to their jobs and their positive retirement outcomes.
    “When work begins on a new, 42-mile commuter rail system here this year, it will also be a groundbreaking moment for Michael Sabia, head of Quebec’s largest pension fund.

    Not only is his fund, Caisse de dépôt & placement du Québec, financing 51% of the 6 billion Canadian dollar (US$4.8 billion) project, but Mr. Sabia has structured the deal so it will manage the building and operation too.
    The project has also grabbed the attention of U.S. officials from cash-strapped states who have noted that the Quebec government had to put up only C$1.3 billion—just about 20% of the project. Mr. Sabia has met with half a dozen U.S. governors in the past year to explain the train deal and promote Caisse’s model for U.S. public works.
    (Since Mr. Sabia was hired)…
    the fund’s assets have more than doubled since it reported net assets of C$131.6 billion in 2009. It has delivered an annualized return of 10.6% in the past five years.”
    Excerpts from the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, October 10, 2017.
    It’s quite a dichotomy isn’t it? One system is fortunate enough to get a leader with vision who is not only helping his constituents but his entire province and country. Meanwhile OPERS, the 12th largest pension system in the United States, gets saddled with “executives” whose only objective is to follow in the footsteps of our lesser Ohio pension systems. STERS and SERS administrators got away with COLA cuts. Why not stick it to OPERS members too.
    The information that OPERS is feeding its members and you is biased and false. Take the claim that we have been outpacing inflation for years. Since 1914 until present there has only been 11 years reported with a negative inflation number. Historically for most years over time there is inflation. In fact in the last 50 years the mean average for inflation was 3.22%. The 3% COLA promised to retirees is based on their original retirement benefit and does not compound. Therefore, it diminishes each year for the retiree. For retirees that retired before 2013 this would equate to a 2.4 % allowance after 10 years , and 1.9% after 20 years.
    The survey put before our noses smelled of bias and a predetermined outcome. Questions 10, 11 and 12 stink mightily of this. All three deserve a “none of the above” for an answer. It’s unfortunate that so many out of 70,000 people felt compelled to dignify the choices given to this disgusting set of queries. The COLA survey is nothing more than a device to be used to renege promises concerning COLAs made by OPERS and posted in OPERS Quarterly Newsletters during the OPERS Healthcare System change starting in 2012.

    Don’t let these administrators ram their predetermined conclusions from an unsound survey down the throats of present and future retirees. Ask them for data, real data. Make them get you demographics, future Ohio public employment trends, the funding base for future payments and what they are doing in regard to investment decisions that make Ohio and OPERS stronger. Get data from OPERS members and retirees. This deserves more than one hearing. Get well rounded information and force the OPERS administrators to drop this exercise or present a truthful and palatable plan that is fair and equitable to all OPERS members. In doing so, perhaps some leadership will emerge from OPERS that is more more like Mr. Sabia’s of Canada.

    Patrick MacKenzie

  137. Michael Roberts says:

    Opers commenting on their face book about a error in a third party medical vendor mailing. Ohio PERS A lot of you have asked how third parties received your names and addresses. OPERS does not “sell” lists of member names and addresses, however, Ohio law permits any person to request a listing of OPERS member names and addresses. OPERS has an obligation under public records law to provide this listing when it is requested. Be assured that no other information, such as your phone numbers or email addresses, are provided in that list. Therefore if any third party can get names and addresses, why can’t we get the resistance up and ready fighting this COLA change?

    • RPM says:

      I do not subscribe to FaceBook. Looked for the article in OPERS news section but could not find it. Can you copy and post it in this blog?

      I looked at the finance section for Defined Contributions. The system appears to have beaten its annual benchmark in the first six months of the year. Mr. Toth was right when he said that this COLA exercise was a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

      • Michael Roberts says:

        Ohio PERS
        October 13 at 4:00pm ·
        OPERS Alert: Retirees should disregard postcard
        You may have recently received a pink postcard indicating OPERS spouses are losing access to Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) money. Please realize that this postcard was not sent by OPERS or OneExchange. There is no need to respond. Dependent’s claims remain eligible for reimbursement from the HRA.
        During the annual Medicare open enrollment period (Oct. 15 – Dec. 7), many companies will be sending you information that can be misleading.
        The OPERS open enrollment guide is a good resource to help you during open enrollment. If you have not yet received your 2018 open enrollment packet, you will receive it shortly.
        If you have any questions regarding your 2018 plan options or HRA, please contact OneExchange at 1-844-287-9945. Ohio PERS A lot of you have asked how third parties received your names and addresses. OPERS does not “sell” lists of member names and addresses, however, Ohio law permits any person to request a listing of OPERS member names and addresses. OPERS has an obligation under public records law to provide this listing when it is requested. Be assured that no other information, such as your phone numbers or email addresses, are provided in that list.

  138. Michael Roberts says:

    Well they got their COLA tied to CPI but never looked at other things. The survey said we had a choice between a cap and freeze, why didn’t you ask what we wanted. So many ways to reduce your expenses, eliminated double dipping, stop QEBA, use the live actuarial table on joint and multiple beneficiaries. Oh and they could have put a limit on pensions like 150,000 is the max salary toward a pension like other states, they could have put a pension cap on COLA, say 50,000 and left it 3 percent, any pension above that you don’t let anymore. So many states have good ideas. They only wanted a COLA, damn the other stuff running OPERS dry.

  139. Michael Roberts says:

    The vote was 7-2 with one member absent and another seat unfilled. Voting against the resolution were Mr. Mauer and Mr. Toth. God bless, Mr. Toth, the only one we have been able to really count on for years.

  140. Catherine says:

    No surprise that our fiduciary (opers) did what they wanted. Can someone help me to understand the “restoring purchasing power” item in which OPERS proposes to provide a one time PENSION adjustment to restore 85 percent purchasing power for those retirees whose purchasing power is less than 85 percent. Who does this affect? How is this calculated? It sounds like an adjustment to base pension amount, not cola.

    Thanks for any help to understand this….

  141. David Nysewander says:

    Ask for a complete audit from Dave Yost, auditor of State. Demand they stop, delay or make double dippers pay into the system. Stop paying out QEBA more pension than required by law for high earners. Cap the salary eligible for pension, say 150,000 – cap at 3 percent the COLA up to the average yearly wage in Ohio , around 53,000. Use live actuarial tables on joint and multiple beneficiaries. That and so much more, then come back and tell us what you need. Demand financial advisers be paid according to their performance. You didn’t ask us what we wanted, you told us it was one or another.

  142. Jackie says:

    Hello,
    I am very upset about this. My insurance is going from 0 to 219.00 a month and now this. I haven’t worked under social security long enough to be eligible for medicare either.
    I guess at my age I need to find a job. Maybe I won’t have to worry though, with worrying about this it should take years off our lives. I posted on the opers facebook page but
    they have removed my comments and blocked me. I guess because I told them they sucked. Mr. Roberts, is there a way you can copy this to the opers facebook page? I just
    came across this site by accident and I know people would like to see your letter and the others as well. I posted a comment on Andrew Brenner’s website (he is a state rep and
    is thinking about running for senator) but he never responded so I took if off.

  143. James says:

    Ohio Public Employee Retraction Service
    Somebody has to keep the OPERS employees in the lap of luxury.
    I have $20,000.00 in pre-taxed OPERS contributions from the 70’s and 80’s that HAVE NOT been distributed to me.
    How about cutting me a check OPERS, so I can pay my wife’s medical premium for 2018!

  144. Rhonda B says:

    I urge all retirees to look up who their representative and senator are and write to them. I just finished emailing mine and encouraging both of them to vote no. They need to know that their constituents are largely opposed to this and that OPERS was informed of our position but didn’t care. I left a comment on the Perspective blog a week ago and it still says “comment is awaiting moderation”. I assume this means that they didn’t like what I wrote so therefore it won’t be allowed.

  145. Mark Holtzclaw says:

    I am a retiree and DMS has my correct address, but did not receive a survey. I am totally against this legislative carpetbagger raid of our COLA benefit that we were PROMISED when we signed up to serve as a low paid state employee. By cutting it down from 3% to 2% these rascals are trying to appear to be softening the blow, but in reality, they are opening a legal door to cut it all the way out if we let them do this with no legal challenge. My understanding is that our retirement agreement is in our Florida constitution and is considered a contract! We need to hold the legislature accountable and they should only be able to alter the deal going forward, not retroactively to already retired state employees.

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