For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Lita Payne and I’m the Executive Officer at LACERS – your retirement system. I’m retiring after 33 years of public service and taking this opportunity to share with you some of the things I’ve learned over my years of service, especially my 20+ years working in retirement systems.
But first, a little about me. I started my career with the City in 1988 as a Clerk Typist at the Department of Building and Safety. I worked at Counter A of the B&S One-Stop on the 4th Floor of City Hall – the Grading Division. There, I got to directly serve Angelenos, assisting them in getting their various approvals on all things grading. While working there, some of the inspectors tried to talk me into becoming an inspector – there was a program at the time to assist in getting more women inspectors. But, one day, the wife of one of the inspectors came to visit and gave me some advice that set the trajectory for my City career. She advised me to not become an inspector but instead pursue the Analyst series. I took her advice and here I am today. (Her name is Uta Hughey – thank you Uta!)
I worked for Building and Safety, the Department of Water and Power, and Public Works for the first ten years of my career, then went to work for Fire and Police Pensions (FPP). It was there that I found my public service calling and spent the balance of my career working for FPP and LACERS (with a short stint at the County’s retirement system, LACERA). 33 quick years later and I’m retiring. And, here’s what I have to share with you:
Plan for retirement! Do you have a plan for retirement? If not, make one. I don’t care if it’s your first day or your thirtieth year on the job, if you don’t have a plan for retirement you either won’t do it or the time will come to retire and you may not be able to take full advantage of everything available to help you create the best retirement possible. Even if you don’t plan to stay with the City for the long haul, what you earn here can still be part of your ultimate retirement plan, so plan for retirement!
Here are some things to do to help you plan for retirement:
Open a MyLACERS account. Whether you’ve been on the job for one day or thirty years, the date you will be eligible to retire is in there! Check it out! You can even start running retirement estimates. Have fun! Another great reason to open a MyLACERS account is that retirement accounts that have not been activated are favorite targets for hackers. Protect your LACERS account by opening a secure MyLACERS account.
Read your Summary Plan Description (SPD). Your SPD is available on our website and contains all of your benefit information in one document. Read it! From this document alone, you can project the years of service you will need to work in order to retire and calculate a rough benefit estimate. I know someone, who is already successfully retired (Hi Steven!), who told me that he learned about his retirement benefit when he found an SPD at work and read it. He eventually landed at LACERS and taught the Planning for Retirement seminar for years!
Attend a Planning for Retirement seminar. Check out the schedule on-line and sign up! Ask questions. Check out the other seminar/webinar offerings that LACERS has. Attend as many as you want. The number one comment I hear from members who attend a seminar is that they’re glad they did because they really learned something – either something they didn’t know or were corrected on something they thought they knew!
Subscribe to the LACERS YouTube channel. We’ve got so much great stuff there. If you take in information better by listening/watching as opposed to reading, this is the way to go! Challenge yourself to watch one video a week until you get through all of them – you won’t regret it. And, you’ll know where to go to find information quick.
And, last but not least, save more money for retirement. I can never say this enough – you need to save more money for retirement. We have a great retirement benefit, but you need to save more money for retirement. A great way to save more money for retirement is to take advantage of the City’s Deferred Compensation plan. If you don’t have an account, I urge you to open one ASAP!
A few years into my retirement career, I started in the retiree healthcare area and I’ve been very closely aligned with retiree healthcare ever since. Within weeks of my exposure to this extremely important aspect of our retirement benefits, I started advising my City friends to save more money for retirement!
You may think that you are going to work for 25+ years and that therefore, your retiree health subsidy will cover your costs, but you’re wrong. The subsidy, which is the retiree healthcare benefit that you earn, is applied to your health plan premium – and that’s it. Deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, out-of-pocket expenses, etc., are all on you. What that adds up to depends. If you don’t know a deduction from a deductible, or a co-pay from co-insurance, congratulations! – you’re probably pretty healthy and/or haven’t had to use your health insurance very much. But, health insurance is there for us when we’re not so healthy so it pays to know what these things are, how they work, and how much they will cost based on your health plan choice and utilization.
LACERS health plans, at least currently, have the same names on them as active employee health plans, i.e. Anthem and Kaiser. But, their benefits are very different and so are your out-of-pocket costs. (Check out the retiree Health Benefits Guide on our website to learn more.) I’ve heard from many surprised members over the years, very soon after retirement, when they suddenly have higher office visit co-pays or higher prescription drug costs, for example. The fact is that even though you are the very same person on the day you retire to the day after you retire, because you are now in a retiree-only pool, your health care costs went up.
This doesn’t mean that our health care benefits are not good – they’re great! We are so lucky to have employer-sponsored healthcare in retirement, especially “early” (non-Medicare) retirement healthcare. It just costs more. So, save more money for retirement! Healthcare is not the only reason – there are all kinds of benefits you reap by saving more money for retirement – but, it is one of the most impactful.
And, that’s it. I hope that some or any part of this helps you in your thinking about your retirement benefit. Plan for retirement. Make a day of it. Schedule a day once a year to think about it – read retirement docs, binge on LACERS YouTube, daydream about retirement, review your beneficiary choices and your deferred comp account, log into your MyLACERS account, etc. Do it with your partner. Do it with your fellow City employees. Just do it!
It’s been my pleasure to be an employee of the City of Los Angeles and to have served LACERS Members for these past several years. Thank you to the City, LACERS (especially the great LACERS staff!), and our Members for the best career ever!
I leave you with this: You may regret many things you spend money on but you will never regret one cent saved for retirement.
LACERS Executive Officer