As a long-term executive at the Government of Guam Retirement Fund Paula Blas has a clear understanding of the operations of the fund.
Over the years she has worked on a daily basis with members and come to understand their needs.
And Blas is angry at the way those needs are being met.
The fund has two classes of employees and retirees. The lucky ones are members of the Defined Benefits Plan — a traditional pension with a 95% employee contribution and a 20.81% contribution by the employer. At the end of their working life the employee should walk away with set income of 30% of salary plus COLA assuming that COLA is regularly paid.
In 1995 the fund introduced the defined contribution plan — with a lower 5% contribution by the employee and a 5% contribution by the employer. The D.C. plan is subject to the vagaries of the stock market and the wisdom of the fund’s investment managers — also dubious over the years as investments have not met expectations.
Thanks to a decision not to participate in social security that’s all that employees in either plan have.
The fund has had other problems — raids on its principal and non-contributions by government agencies that have continued without censure. Not to mention a decision in the Gutierrez-Rios case that has actuaries in a tizzy. It seems that thanks to former Gov. Carl Gutierrez all employees can now be paid retroactively based on years when they were not participants of the fund.
Sophisticated participants of either plan like those in the private sector who are members of 401(k)s understand certain primary truths as Blas does. The plan is not a safety net for day-to-day living however urgent the need.
The fund is a mess. Blas understands that — and points out that if the fund continues along the same path thousands of its retirees will have no income to retire on.
Blas counsels employees not to switch from the D.C. plan to the D.B. plan. She abhors the fact that employees can dip into their plans almost at will. Employees don’t understand the need to meet investment targets.
Why are the trustees silent as the debacle continues? Why has the plan continued for 10 years without an RFP for a new administrator?
Blas is right. Stop employees from treating the D.C. Plan like a savings account.
The trustees should push for an increase in the percentage of income that goes to participants’ retirement accounts under the D.C. Plan and they must set performance standards for the next administrator selected under the new R.F.P.
Help the employees who will end up as a shameful and poverty-stricken legacy of how they were failed.