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University prepares for expected increase in employee retirements

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With upcoming changes to the way retirement benefits are calculated and uncertainty over pension legislation, more university employees are asking themselves: is this a good time to retire?

According to data from the State Universities Retirement System, more U of I employees are considering retirement this year compared to last, said Maureen Parks, executive director and associate vice president of human resources.

“We’re hearing from SURS that more people are setting up appointments than last year to explore whether retirement would be a good option for them,” Parks said. “Applications for retirement are also up.”

One factor prompting employees to consider retirement is a change to the Money Purchase Factor used to calculate benefits for retirees. For employees who retire after July 2, the new factor reduces monthly benefit payments by an average of 7 to 8 percent.

“I’m sure a lot of people are exploring whether or not it makes sense for them to retire as the formula stands today versus the new formula,” Parks said.

State legislators are considering pension changes that call for employees to pay significantly more to maintain the current level of benefits, pay less and receive reduced benefits, or set up a self-managed plan.

“People may be considering, ‘What will happen to my pension if there is pension reform that gets passed in the legislature?’” Parks said.

To help campus units prepare for a potential increase in retirees, the Academic Professional Advisory Committee will host a town hall for managers Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Illinois Room, Student Center East.

“We hope to provide access to tools that can be implemented by departments now, to begin providing a basic framework to cope with future departures,” said APAC chair Michael Moss.

“We need to equip our managers with tools and techniques to cope with the transition,” Parks said.

“Are there critical roles that won’t be filled? How do you transfer institutional knowledge from one person who is leaving to people who are staying?”

Employees who are planning to retire must notify SURS 60 days before they leave. They should give their department manager as much notice as possible, Parks said.

“There needs to be an orderly transition,” she said. “Preplanning is really helpful. The more notice the better.”

Planning seminars are available for employees considering retirement.

SURS will hold a retirement preparation seminar Tuesday.

The university will hold a retirement planning seminar April 14 in Student Center East, Parks said.

“Even if someone has already made the decision to retire, I would still encourage them to attend because they will no doubt find helpful information,” she said.


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