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SERS News - Summer 2006

Confidentiality of Your SERS Member File

SERS' 2005 Investment Performance Among Nation's Best

Marital Property

Annuitant Statements are Coming in 2007

Member Requests Refine New Phone System

Funding Retirement Benefits

SERS Board

 

 
Confidentiality of Your SERS Member File

Maintaining the confidentiality of the information in your member file is a top priority for SERS, and SERS will release that information only under limited circumstances. 

Requests From You
SERS will release most information in your member file directly to you upon your request.  Your request must be made in writing and must be signed by you and dated.  SERS will mail the requested information only to your address of record, even if you indicate a different mailing address in your request.

Requests From Your Pre-Approved Designee
With your written authorization, SERS will disclose information from your member file to any third party you designate.  Your authorization must be signed by you and dated.  You may limit the type of information SERS may release.  Requests by third parties to whom SERS is authorized to release your member file information must be in writing, signed and dated.  Authorization to Release Account Information (SERS-405) forms are available on the SERS website through the "Forms" link, and by calling your Retirement Counselor at 1-800-633-5461.

Requests From Third Parties
SERS may be required to release records from your member file pursuant to a subpoena or a Right-to-Know Law request.  While SERS will protect information in your member file as permitted by law, certain information, including your name, years of service and salary, are public records that in most cases SERS is legally obligated to disclose in response to a Right-to-Know Law request.

Requests From Past and Present Employers
Finally, SERS will provide certain information regarding your SERS membership status to your current employing agency or to any former Commonwealth employer upon the employer's request.  However, all SERS retirement counseling matters -- including the fact that you spoke to a counselor -- are confidential.  SERS will not release counseling-related information, such as personalized retirement estimates, to your current or former employer (or to any other third party) without your written authorization to do so.


SERS' 2005 Investment Performance Among Nation's Best;
14.5% return helps plan maintain well-funded status
Projected increases in employer contribution rates are a concern

SERS' 2005 investment performance once again placed your retirement system among the top performing pension funds in the nation and helped keep it well fundedThis marks the third straight year of outstanding investment returns for SERS as the fund battles back from the effects of the 2000-2002 bear market - America's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

SERS posted a net investment return of 14.5%, or $3.6 billion, and ended the year with a balance of $28.6 billion.  That return put SERS in the top 10% nationally among public pension plans with assets of more than $1 billion, and was nearly double the 7.55% median return for all public pension funds.

This marks the third straight year of outstanding investment returns for SERS as the fund battles back from the effects of the 2000-2002 bear market -- America's worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

"Our recent strong performance has enabled the system to remain well funded despite the bear market investment losses" explained Executive Director Eric Henry.

"We are now 92.9% funded and expect our funded level to remain in the low 90% range for the next several years."  In comparison, Henry noted that a recent survey of 58 large pension plans found they had an average funding level of just 80%.

 

"All of us at SERS are well aware that the sharply higher employer contribution rates scheduled for 2012 and thereafter pose a serious budgetary challenge to the Commonwealth.  We are working closely with the Governor's Office and the Legislature to develop a plan to meet that challenge, while also maintaining our well-funded status."
 
SERS Executive Director
Eric Henry
 

Also affecting SERS' funded status are legislative changes enacted in Act 9 of 2001, Act 38 of 2002 and Act 40 of 2003.  Act 9 increased retirement benefits for most members, Act 38 provided cost of living allowances for most retired members and Act 40 postponed an increase in employer contributions that otherwise would have occurred.  The "employer normal" contribution rate is 8.39% of payroll, but, as dictated by Act 40, employers currently are paying just 4%.  Latest projections show the actual employer rate remaining far below the employer normal rate until July 2012 - when the actual rate is projected to jump to over 15.2%.

"All of us at SERS are well aware that the sharply higher employer contribution rates scheduled for 2012 and thereafter pose a serious budgetary challenge to the Commonwealth," said Mr. Henry.  "We are working closely with the Governor's Office and the Legislature to develop a plan to meet that challenge, while also maintaining our well-funded status."

For more information regarding SERS' investments, investment performance and funding, Henry suggests members review the SERS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2005, which is posted on the SERS website, under "Publications."

 


Marital Property
SERS Retirement Benefits and Domestic Relations Orders

 

A Domestic Relations Order (DRO) is a court order designating an Alternate Payee to receive all or a portion of your retirement benefits.  Under Pennsylvania law, SERS retirement benefits earned during marriage are marital property.  A court with jurisdiction over a divorce may issue an order attaching your account for payment of support and for equitable distribution of your SERS account.


 

An approved DRO will specify how much (a portion or all), and in what form, SERS will pay from your retirement annuity to an Alternate Payee in order to accomplish the equitable distribution of marital assets arising from a divorce.

Image of wedding ringsUnder an approved DRO, a portion of your annuity will be attached to pay the Alternate Payee's share; therefore, no money can be paid to an Alternate Payee until SERS begins paying your annuity benefits or you die.

The Retirement Code specifies the information that a DRO must include to attach a SERS retirement benefit.  Because SERS is a governmental plan, Federal pension statutes and requirements contained in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Retirement Equity Act of 1984, and the Internal Revenue Code regarding Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) and spousal consent laws do not apply.

DROs attaching a SERS annuity are not effective until SERS reviews and approves them for compliance with the Retirement Code's requirements.

Guidelines for drafting a DRO, as well as a Sample DRO, are available on the SERS website, under "Forms," and by contacting your Regional Retirement Counseling Center, at 1-800-633-5461.

DROs may be submitted to and approved by SERS while you are an active member or a retired member; however, they do not become effective until you retire or die.

In the absence of an appropriate court order, a SERS member may take any action with regard to his or her retirement benefits, including a change of beneficiary, without any notice or consent required from anyone, including a spouse.

You are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney if you are involved in a divorce or divorce-related action.  If you have questions about DROs or would like to have a draft DRO pre-approved before submitting it to the court, please contact your Retirement Counselor at 1-800-633-5461.

Retired Members and Annuitants: SERS' First-Ever Personal Statement of Retirement Benefits Coming in 2007.  Watch for more information in the Fall 2006 Newsletter.


You've Spoken - We've Listened
Member Requests Refine New Phone System

During the past year SERS implemented a new automated phone system with the goal to serve you faster.  Members who used the system, however, expressed uneasiness with the new system, specifically with the system's request for your Social Security number.  In addition, members asked for the ability to connect to a staff member earlier in the automated attendant's message.

You've spoken and we've listened: Among other modifications to the system, you are no longer asked to enter your Social Security number.  And if you know the extension of the person you want to talk to, you may dial it as soon as the automatic attendant answers your call: Simply press 1 and, when prompted, the four-digit extension.

Please be aware that these modifications have changed the phone menu choices.  The new menu choices, outlined below, can be used for reference.

 

New Phone Menus
1-800-633-5461
Services are available through the phone system
Mon. - Fri. 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., excluding State Holidays
 
 
When you call SERS you will be directed to the new automated attendant.
You can repeat the menus at any time by pressing 7.
 
 
If you know your party's four-digit extension
You will be directed to enter the four-digit extension number.
 Press 1  
 
To request a form
You will be routed to a forms mailbox where you will be asked a series of questions so that the correct form can be sent to you.
 Press 2  
 
If you require member services
You will be directed to your Regional Retirement Counseling Center
 
   After pressing 3 you will be provided with the following choices:
 Press 3  
   
If you are retired and did not receive your check or you need information on:
    • change of address
    • direct deposit
    • federal withholding
    • health insurance
 Press 2  
   
To report a death
 Press 3  
    To speak to your Retirement Counselor  Press 4  
    For the status of an account processing or purchase of service request  Press 5  
    To repeat the menu  Press 7  
    For any other assistance   Press 0  



 
Funding Retirement Benefits

Pie chart depicting SERS funding over its 20-year history: 77% investment income; 13% employer; 10% employeeAs a member of SERS, your retirement benefits are protected by statute and the Constitution.  But how does SERS fund those benefits?

SERS is funded through three sources: employee contributions, employer contributions, and investment income.

Over the last 20 years, approximately 77% of SERS funding has come from investment earnings while only 13% of the funding has come from employers (state) and 10% from employees.

In 2005, SERS paid nearly $1.9 billion in retirement benefits to more than 101,000 retirees and beneficiaries.

 

  
SERS Board

Hon. Nicholas J. Maiale, Chairman
Mr. Michael J. Acker, Sr. V.P. Triad Strategies
Hon. Gibson E. Armstrong, State Senator
Hon. Robert A. Bittenbender, Former State Secretary of the Budget
Hon. Robert P. Casey, Jr., State Treasurer
Mr. David R. Fillman, AFSCME Executive Director
Hon. Robert W. Godshall, State Representative
Hon. Raphael J. Musto, State Senator
Hon. Thomas G. Paese, Former State Secretary of Administration
Hon. M. Joseph Rocks, Retired Member and Former State Senator
Hon. Michael R. Veon, State Representative



Last published: 08/10/2011 04:20 PM [Back to Top]