Wednesday, October 1, 2014

LASERS Actuarial Valuation Shows Nearly $1 Billion Increase in Assets

Over the past fiscal year, the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS) actuarial value of assets increased from $9.7 billion to $10.6 billion. This positive information was part of the annual actuarial valuation report for the period ending June 30, 2014, adopted by the LASERS Board of Trustees at its September 26 meeting.

Other highlights from the valuation included: LASERS fiscal year 2014 investment return, which was in excess of 18 percent, a reduction in the employer contribution rate which is expected to save the State of Louisiana approximately $60 million in payments next year, and a decrease in the Normal Cost of the retirement benefit from 6.54 to 3.56 percent.

“The 2014 valuation reflects the implementation of major reforms which are good for LASERS and for Louisiana going forward,” said LASERS Executive Director Cindy Rougeou. “The change to a new cost method, Entry Age Normal; the reduction in the discount rate to 7.75 percent; and the implementation of Act 399 of 2014 which dedicates more investment returns toward the System debt, allows for greater budget stability, and improvement in the overall health and sustainability of the plan.”

LASERS Actuary Shelley Johnson noted in her presentation that LASERS retirees outnumber active members, 46,940 to 40,321. For the fifth consecutive year, the number of active state employees has decreased, resulting in a reduction of the amount of total payroll by $140 million.

The valuation reflected an increase in the Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL) of the System as a result of the change to Entry Age Normal and the discount rate change, but there will be no change in total benefits to be paid. Rougeou said, “The UAL increase is offset by a corresponding decrease in current and future Normal Costs. LASERS Benefits Louisiana: implementing these important reforms in a time and manner that will not increase costs to the System or the taxpayers.”

To read the complete LASERS Annual Actuarial Valuation, refer to the Annual Reports page on the LASERS website.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Retirement Study Reveals Good News for Louisiana Economy


A 2014 study by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), Measuring the Economic Impact of DB Pension Expenditures, reveals that benefits paid by state and local pension plans had a total impact of $6.1 billion on Louisiana's economy.

$3.0 billion in direct economic impacts were supported by retirees' initial expenditures, followed by an additional $1.9 billion in indirect impact resulting when these businesses purchased additional goods and services.

For more information about Louisiana, view the NIRS study.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

LASERS Investment Performance 18.8%

LASERS ended the June 30, 2014 fiscal year with an investment return of 18.8 percent. This stellar performance brings the total asset value of the System to $11 billion, the highest in the history of LASERS.

This fiscal year return places the System in the top ten among 90 other public retirement funds greater than $1 billion, according to Wilshire's Trust Universe Comparison Service (TUCS). TUCS is the most widely accepted benchmark for the performance of institutional assets and represents the largest database of any peer-comparison service in the industry.

"For the second year in a row, we have had double digit market returns," said LASERS Chief Investment Officer Bobby Beale, "and we attribute this to a well-diversified asset allocation across asset classes and geographies. Specifically this year, strong performance in the domestic and international equity markets had a definite impact on returns."

"Wilshire Associates, Inc. reported that, for the one-year period, public pensions with assets greater than $1 billion experienced a median return of 17.4 percent, so it is particularly exciting to share news of our 18.8 percent return with our members and the state as a whole," said LASERS Executive Director Cindy Rougeou. "We set the bar high because LASERS is working for Louisiana."

LASERS provides a defined benefit pension plan that covers approximately 150,000 members. LASERS pays over $1 billion in annual benefits to retirees and their beneficiaries, providing a strong and reliable economic stimulus for Louisiana.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rougeou Named NASRA President

Cindy Rougeou, Executive Director of the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System (LASERS), has been named President of the Executive Committee by members of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA).

NASRA is a non-profit association whose members are the directors of the nation’s state, territorial, and largest statewide public retirement systems. NASRA members oversee retirement systems that hold more than $2 trillion in assets and that provide pension and other benefits to more than two-thirds of all state and local government employees.

“I am honored to be chosen as President of NASRA, an association of critical importance to public pension systems around the nation,” said Rougeou. The association’s mission is to serve its members in managing sustainable public employee retirement systems through education, research, and collaboration. NASRA has been consistently committed to the five elements supporting sound retirement plan design: mandatory participation, shared financing, benefit adequacy, pooled investment and longevity risks, and lifetime benefits.

Rougeou assumes the new position having previously served as President Elect, first Vice President, and second Vice President of the Executive Committee. She was also NASRA’s Region 4 Vice President, which includes Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas.

Rougeou joined LASERS in 2002 and has had an extensive career in public service.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Retirees get creative to eat cheap at restaurants

Nanci Hellmich | USA TODAY

Retirees over the age of 65 bought an average of 193 meals at a restaurant last year up from 171 meals in 2009. 

Marie Langworthy, 68, and her husband, Bob, 75, of Columbia, Conn., love to dine out and usually do so at least twice a week, often for dinner or a late lunch.

Marie hates to cook and tries to avoid it at all costs. "My husband prefers anything to my cooking," she says. "The surest way to get your husband to take you out to eat is to be a lousy cook."

"We always spend more than we'd like to or anticipate, because Bob enjoys wine or hard liquor with his meal, and I always opt for dessert," says Marie, a retired school administrator and co-author of Shifting Gears to Your Life and Work After Retirement.

She says they could probably "save a bundle" if they ate more meals at home, but they have no plans to cut back on dining out anytime soon. "First of all, eating out has become a great American social pastime. Secondly, it allows each of us to pick and choose what we want without our needing to plan and prepare meals in advance."

Retirees over the age of 65 bought an average of 193 meals each at restaurants last year up from 171 in 2009, according to the latest data from the NPD Group, a market research firm that tracks eating trends. That's slightly less than adults over age 18 who bought an average of 203 meals at restaurants last year, down from 222 meals in 2009.

"In an industry that is suffering, retirees are a bright spot," says Harry Balzer, NPD chief industry analyst. The average restaurant check for a retiree is $8.05, vs. $7.33 for other adults.

Retirees frequent fast-food places 63% of the time; 37% of the time they go to places with waiters and waitresses, he says.
When it comes to spending money on dining out, retirees have to prioritize what matters to them and budget accordingly, says Gary Schatsky, a New York City financial planner and president of ObjectiveAdvice.com. For many people, dining out feels like a mini-vacation, and they really enjoy it, he says.

Some people think having alcohol at their meal is an important part of the experience, but if you don't buy alcohol, you can afford more dinners out, he says. Even not drinking sodas at several meals can save a lot of money over time, he says.

Mark Fried, president of TFG Wealth Management in Newtown, Pa., says when he reviews budgets with retirees, they often make dining out a line item. "How much money they have determines where they are going to eat out."

Some want to dine out occasionally, but others say they are "done with cooking forever and want to eat out every night."

Many retirees are price conscious, and they want the option to order half portions, says Reimund Pitz, chef and owner of Le Coq au Vin restaurant in Orlando. "These folks can't eat like they used to." So Pitz offers half portions at a reduced price.

There are creative ways to eat out frequently without busting the budget. Nelson Cooney 76, of Bethesda, Md., and his wife, Joan, 78, have dinner out two to three times a week, so he searches for discounts on LivingSocial and Groupon, and they sometimes go to happy hours at restaurants where the wine is less expensive and the bar food can serve as their dinner.

"I don't like to overspend when I don't have to. We only use them (discount coupons) to go to places we want to go to. We don't go places we don't care about. We're very selective," says Cooney, a retired trade association executive.

Carol Miller, 74, a retired schoolteacher in Terrell, N.C., likes to order takeout from a cafe in town and bring it home "to sit in my recliner and eat."

She spends about $12 or so on a takeout dinner, which lasts her two or three meals. It's very economical and tastes great, she says. "I could never replicate their food."

She also goes out to dinner regularly with several different groups of women, including some from her church, retired teachers and old friends. "For women my age, going out to eat is a sort of tribal thing that women do, and generally it's with people you love, so you can talk to them and complain to them.

"Sometimes I think, 'I just ate out yesterday,' but I go ahead and go again. I don't like to cook. It doesn't interest me."

Her husband did the cooking for their family, but he passed away three years ago. Eating out is a good "way for retired people to reconnect," Miller says. "You could very easily stay in your house and cook a grilled cheese or a TV dinner. You could become a hermit if you don't watch out."

Marie Langworthy says sometimes she and her husband go out for the early bird specials to save money, but they often pay the full freight. She loves eating outdoors in the summer at casual "shack-like" restaurants with high-quality food. "I also love to try different high-end restaurants, and would travel anywhere, any distance for a good meal and a new ambient experience."

Original article here.