Thursday, July 18, 2013

Former Republican party presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry speaks during a pro-life event called "Treasure Life" at the Tampa Aquarium in Tampa, Florida on August 28, 2012. The Republican National Coalition for Life and FRC Action's event, "Treasure Life," honored the pro-life contributions of the former Republican party presidential candidates Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry for their advocacy for every stage of life, from conception to natural death. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOVMLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/GettyImages

Was Rick Perry a good governor of Texas? More narrowly, but more important from the viewpoint of this blog, was Rick Perry a good governor for the retired teachers of Texas?

                                       The negatives

Rick Perry was the governor of Texas from 2000 to 2013. (Actually his term will continue until 2014) During his terms of office Texas' retired teachers have received only one cost of living adjustment and that was in the last session. The result is that Texas retired teachers have lost one third of their buying power since 2001.

During a large part of the governor's term he allowed the state contributions to fall to the minimum of  six per cent. A  plethora of studies have shown that the single biggest factor in the proper funding of retirement funds is the state contribution. Had the state contributed more than the minimum the fund might actually been fully funded now.

A third negative for Governor Perry is the lack of leadership shown by Governor Perry on issues important to retired teachers. I realize there are many issues that compete for the governor's attention but the governor chooses which issues to concentrate on and for whatever reason Governor Perry showed little leadership or even interest in retired teachers.

                                      The Positives

The positives of Governor Perry's terms mainly are related to the powerful performance of the Texas economy. This, at least in my opinion, has to count in the Governor's favor since, in addition to our  being retired educators, we are citizens of the Lone Star state. 

First is the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate in Texas is only 6.5 percent while the unemployment rate nationwide is 7.6 percent. The more people employed the more consumed and the more revenue for the state. Not only is this good for the people who now have a job but also for the TRS fund as the state will now have more funds to pay into the fund.

A second positive for the governor's record is the low cost of living. This means that our cost of living at least remained reasonable, even if we didn't get a cost of living adjustment. 

A final positive for the Governor is that the pay for teachers actually went up faster than inflation during his term. Since contributions to the TRS  fund are based on total teacher payroll, the more pay for teachers, the better for the TRS fund.

                                            The Conclusion

Since this blogger was in the education business I'll give my conclusions about Governor Perry in the form of a grade. In terms of what he did for the Texas retired teachers I would give him a D, In terms of his overall grade as a governor of Texas I would give him a B . 

                                              Your Turn.

So what do you think?

Was Rick Perry a good governor for Texas Retired teachers?

Was he a good governor of Texas?

If he ran again, would you have voted for him?

To leave your comments just scroll to the bottom of this page and click on "comments" and leave your opinion. Thanks in advance 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Getting Better Not Older


              Are you getting better or just older. Well if you're like me it depends on the day. Eric Pfeiffer in his book Winning Strategies for Successful  Aging says we can get better as we get older but we must have goals and strategies to get better as we age.

                     Author's thesis: Pfeiffer says that " in this book you will learn that you probably have years and years to live after you reach 65, in which to enjoy yourself and to accomplish things you have had to postpone until now". The question is will you use those years wisely. Pfeiffer carries out his thesis  in a way that will be familiar to those of us retired teachers who have ever written a curriculum guide, he has a goal in each chapter that will help us to age gracefully and then he lists strategies to reach that goal. Pfeiffer divides this into pragmatic goals, health goals and what he refers to as spiritual goals.

          Pragmatic goals. The author writes that one important goal is to choose your ideal place to live . Pfeiffer's strategies include determining whether we want to age in place( stay in our present home), move to another state or  country, or move to a retirement community. The author suggests that if we choose to age in place we should start now think about how to make the house "age proof" by ,for example, putting grab bars in the bathroom.  The choice to move somewhere else may come from a sense of adventure , a desire to escape the climate where one now lives, or to be near children ( or away from them). This blogger's views are that the author is correct that anyone planning to move to a new state or country should first spend some time in that state or country. I have spent the large part of the last three years in a foreign country ( the Philippines) and while there is much to be said for the experience of living abroad, there is also a need to  learn to be very adaptable. As for a retirement community, I would have to grab a gun and mask and rob a couple of stores  to afford them.

           A second pragmatic goal covered by the author is "do you have the money to allow you to age gracefully"? The author suggests the retiree should divide his money into lifetime money and non-lifetime money. Examples of  lifetime income include social security and pensions. Of course in the case of retired Texas teachers most of us have either little or no social security , and so our guaranteed lifetime income is our TRS pension. Examples of non-lifetime income are defined contributions plans such as 403B. Pfeiffer suggests turning the non-guaranteed income into lifetime income by putting at least some of the 403B type of  investment into an immediate annuity that guarantees a lifetime income. Further strategies recommended include keeping taxes low and finding a financial adviser. My only disappointment with Mr. Pfieffer 's recommendations was his failure to mention index funds which cover the entire market, such as Vanguards Total Stock Market Index . I would also suggest visiting a website called Bogleheads This site provides a forum where a bunch of very intelligent guys and gals answer your questions about investment for free. Why pay for advice? No I have no financial connection to Vanguard except I wish that site would have been around when I was young and I might actually have some money myself.

 Health. Good health is a prerequisite for successful aging. That's how Pfeiffer begins the first of three chapters on health. He writes that our first strategy must be to take charge of our own health by knowing our vital numbers such as cholesterol , blood pressure and blood sugar and keeping them under control. A second strategy is to learn about a healthy diet and follow that diet. In addition he gives the advice we have all heard that we need to get up off the couch and get on the move. He suggests we need to get some exercise every day and recommends walking and a pedometer so we will know the number of steps. Though I am a committed jogger, I think he is right that walking may be the best exercise as we age .

The chapter on brain health is particularly interesting and useful. Pfeiffer is a genuine pioneer  in the field of the brain and aging. His strategies for maintaining brain age as we age is to exercise our brains. His examples of exercising our brains include learning a new language, learning a new dance step( I think I'll skip that as I have always been a threat to the health of the feet of any lady kind enough to dance with me), learn the art of tai chi and read, read, read. He also discusses Alzheimer's and has in the book The Seven Warning Signs of Alzheimer's  which he himself created. The warning signs are listed on page 121 of  Successful Aging.

Relationships.  Dr.Pfeiffer instructs us to make our relationships a high priority. Numerous studies have shown our relationships play an essential role in successful aging. The author writes that if we are married that is the most important relationship and we need to work on that relationship. His strategies for successful relationships include belonging to a church , volunteer work or joining a group. 

sex: OK now that I have your attention, Dr Pfeiffer assures us that we can engage in sex into our 70's 80's or even 90's. I guess this is indeed  good news about aging but I still think the news that coffee and chocolate is good for us is even better news. He also has a section on sex in nursing homes which put images in my mind I could have done without. 

Maintaining our independence: I suspect one of the greatest fears we have of aging is we will become dependent on others and lose our sense of  independence. Dr. Pfeiffer's strategies for keeping out independence is don't take unnecessary chances such as climbing on the roof or ladders. I felt some degree of trepidation after reading this as I had just got off the roof . Another strategy is to foolproof your home.

I hope I have given you some idea of the flavor of this book so you will want to take a bigger taste. I do believe the strategies mentioned in this book  will help us age successfully. 

                   Your Turn

 Thanks for reading. I would love to have your opinions. What are your goal and strategies for successful aging.? What are your thoughts on living to 100? Just scroll down to the bottom and click on comments.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Retired Teachers and the 2013 Texas Legislature

                Hide all the women and children, the Texas legislature  is in session. O.K.,so this is an old and maybe not so funny, and besides the session is now over; so did  the Texas legislature  help or hurt  Texas retired teachers this session? It all depends on the viewpoint.                      

                               Just The Facts Mam,

  1. So if I may paraphrase Sgt Joe Friday, the protagonist of one of my favorite shows of the fifties, " Lets just look at the facts" from the recent legislature. The Legislature through Senate Bill 1458 , now signed into law by Governor Perry, gave a three percent cola to teachers who retired before 2004 .  This is, as most of us know, the first cost of living adjustment for any retirees since 2001. The adjustment is limited to a maximum of $100 per month. 

   2. The state contribution was raised from the minimum of 6 per cent  in 2012 and 2013 to 6.9 per cent in 2014 and 7.4 percent in 2015. 

    3. Active teachers contribution was increased. The contribution was increased to 6.4 percent in 2014, 6.7 percent in 2015, 7.2 in 2016 and 7.7 per cent in 2017.

    4. Active teachers who are not vested, five years or less of service, will need to wait until 62 to receive their full annuity. They will receive a 5 per cent reduction for each year they retire before 62. The rule of 80 remains in effect for those with five or more years in TRS.

                           The Good The Bad And The Ugly          

      OK, so there's no bad and even no ugly since I didn't post my photo, but there  are some parts of these changes that could have been much better , in the humble opinion  of this blogger.

     The Good: The cost of living increase for the teachers who retired before 2004 is certainly good. Many of these retirees have been struggling for quite some time as their spending power has decreased by one third since 2001 due to inflation. A second  good result of the recent changes is the increased contribution from the state will move the fund toward being "actually sound". More about this "actuarily sound"  in a moment.      

    The maybe not so good :  Though I see much good in this legislation as mentioned above I don't have as sanguine an opinion as my favorite organization , the Retired Teachers Association  Some of my questions follow. Was the choice to base the cost of living on a year, such as 2004, the fairest choice. For example a superintendent who retired before 2004 and is receiving a six figure annuity will receive a cost of living adjustment while a secretary who retired in 2005 and makes $ 15,000 will not get an increase. Could not a more fair system have been found such as  a 2 percent increase for those who retired before 2004 and one per cent for those who retired after 2005. That way everyone would at least get some increase. Another maybe not so good is the increased contribution from the state. I agree that the increased state contribution is a good thing but what is preventing the state from returning to the minimum contribution in the next biennium as they have done before. And, by the way, we are told this will move the TRS fund toward being "actually sound". So I'm puzzled about this term " actuarily sound" since the TRS website
says that the fund has sufficient funds to last until 2068. If that's not" actuarily sound "then what is ?

                                              Your Turn 

OK you've heard enough from me. I would love to hear your comments, agreements, disagreements and corrections Just scroll down below and click on comments and leave your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

  Just for fun trivia: Who sang the 1950's hit song" How Much is That Dogie in the Window" . If you answer correctly, I unfortunately can't give you a prize, but you'll know you're smarter than a fifth grader.