Friday, February 28, 2014

SURS and SUAA Updates

SURS is overwhelmed with appointment requests. SURS individual counseling sessions are booked through May 15. Instead SURS is scheduling groups if 10 people. Each person will get their individual packet with their numbers estimated just as they would for individual counseling sessions

The old SURS estimator has been removed from the website and new one should be up next week.

SURS webinars hold 500 guests, and the ones listed below are filling up fast! Click here to download the pdf of the slides used in the presentations, which have useful information.  

Webinars are scheduled at the following days/times:
  1. Wednesday, March 5th, 9:30am-11:00am  is FULL
  2. Tuesday, March 18th, 2:00pm-3:30pm
  3. Friday, April 4th, 9:30am-11:00am

Please join SUAA so we can help to watch out for your pensions and benefits, at only $3:50 per month:

  1. Download an application on the website and mail it to the SUAA office.
  2. Enroll online at the SUAA website.

UIC SUAA President Answers Timely Questions

From Brenda Russell, UIC SUAA Chapter President: 

russell portrait small
SUAA Chapter President, Brenda Russell
I am receiving many questions from mid-career faculty and professionals about the long-term prospects at UIC. They express concerns about the pension changes along with union strike and the financial issues in the state of Illinois.  Morale is very low.  Let me cheer you up on this cold February Friday.

Should you stay at UIC?  I say YES.   I love UIC because we care about higher education, research and service in the best way possible.

Unintended consequences of pension "reform" may work in your favor!  The pension changes affect those nearing retirement most and judging from the crush on information requests about pensions to SURS my best guess is that will be many unexpected opportunities for promotion for mid-career folk.

Every place I know has strengths and weaknesses, but they differ from the devil you know to the devil you don't.

Before you consider jumping ship you should think very carefully.  Consider what matters most to you.  For most academics it is not only about money but the ability to make a difference in their chosen field, and to make the world a better place. That is the mission of UIC. Chicago is a modern, cosmopolitan city. UIC always feels to me to be ahead and living in 21st century. UIUC is in the wrong place and UIC will increasingly be the #1 choice of the top Illinois students.

At any career step you need to ask what next? What are your goals, and can UIC meet them?   Then you can look at UIC again and decide what it has to offer you.

Illinois may seem to have a gloomy financial situation but, in fact, Illinois is one of the wealthier states.  It could easily increase taxes or revenue streams just as California did.  I believe that Illinois will turn itself around and be as good as or better than most other states.

Having said all that, you should decide where you will be and what to do based on the attainable goals you are most passionate about.

It might be a tougher choice for those who are eligible and close to retirement because the new pension Law might cost you a reduction in your expected pension.  I am following it all closely and there will be probably be a few tweaks to the law this session, but I don't expect anything major to change.  Court cases are filed, but nothing in court yet.  You cannot count on a court to stop the clock by an injunction before the deadline of June 30 2014 under old law.  I expect much of this new Law to be allowed eventually, although I think we can overturn some items and be compensated for losses.  This will all take two or more years or so those retiring in that time window have a degree of uncertainty that is tough to manage.

I hope you choose UIC.

Friday, February 21, 2014

SURS Announces Presentations and Webinars

SURS Outreach Department is hosting on-campus pension reform presentations beginning February 26, 2014.The information presented will provide an overview of the changes to SURS benefits based on PA 98-599 (SB1).

To find out if your school has scheduled a presentation, contact your HR Department.

SURS is also providing pension reform webinars for those who cannot attend the presentations.

Webinar dates are March 5, March 18 and April 4, 2014
Click here for more information and to register.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Summary of Pension Reform Law

SURS provided a summary of Public Act 98-599 (Pension Reform) which includes information on the following topics:
  • Automatic Annual Increase
  • Retirement Age
  • Pensionable Earnings Limitation
  • Tier 1 Employee Contribution Decrease
  • Money Purchase Formula Changes
  • Optional Defined Contribution Plan
  • State Funding
Click here to learn about how the law effects these issues and more. 

SURS Temporarily Waives Appointment Limit

"University faculty and staff who are considering retirement may need help making important decisions given the recently passed pension reform law. Eligible employees who already received a counseling appointment may request a second appointment if needed...

For more information about SURS counseling appointments, see the SURS website at Please note that the SURS online application will not allow you to request the second appointment, unless you have already called SURS Member Services first at 800-275-7877." READ MORE

Title: "SURS temporarily waives counseling appointment limit"
Author: N/A
Date Published: February 13, 2014

State's Employee Unions Ban Together

"The state's public employee unions are warning Illinois lawmakers that they oppose cuts being imposed on the deficit-ridden state retirement system.

City employee unions, including those representing teachers, police and firefighters, have drawn their line in the sand. They will not accept the same pension reform deal imposed on state workers." READ MORE

Title: "Unions oppose pension reform cuts"
Author: Charles Thomas
Source: ABC Local 
Date Published: February 17, 2014

How Big is Illinois' Pension Problem?

"The controversial changes to Illinois’ public pension systems enacted in December came after years of fierce debate. And one of the key points of contention among academics and fund leaders was 
this fundamental question: Exactly how bad is the pension shortfall?
The number kicked around by politicians and reporters is usually around $100 billion, based one estimate from the state’s five retirement systems.

That is what is known as the state’s 'unfunded liability'—a fancy way of saying the amount Illinois will owe state workers in future retirement benefits but will not be able to pay if the systems’ finances do not change." READ MORE

Title: "Illinois' pension problem: How big is it, really?"
Author: Alex Keefe
Source: WBEZ91.5
Date Published: February 7, 2014

More Sue to Overturn Pension Reform Law

"A coalition of public worker labor unions filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to overturn a new Illinois law aimed at reducing a $100 billion unfunded pension liability.

The class-action lawsuit, filed by the We Are One Illinois coalition in Sangamon County Circuit Court in the state capital of Springfield, claims the law violates the Illinois Constitution, which stipulates that public worker pensions are contracts that the state cannot diminish or impair." READ MORE

Title: UPDATE 1 - Union group sues to overturn Illinois pension reform law"
Author: N/A
Source: Reuters
Date Published: January 28, 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

APAC and SUAA Pension SURS Town Hall Recap

On January 29, 2014 APAC and SUAA hosted a pension town hall. Presenters Jeff Houch, Legislative Liaison SURS (State Universities Retirement System of Illinois) and Brenda Russell, President of the UIC Chapter of SUAA (State Universities Annuitants Association) presented on the SURS retirement plan design change details as provided by Senate Bill 1 (Public Act 98-599) and what it means for SURS members (both current employees and retirees), legislative challenges trying to overturn SB1 and retiree health insurance issues.

To view presentation documents, please click on the following links:

To view videos of the presentation, please see below:

  • Presentation by Jeff Houch:

  • Presentation by Brenda Russell

  • Question and Answer Session with Jeff Houch and Brenda Russell