Things To Do On An Annual Basis

LivingPower Newsletter, Jan./Feb. 2023

As 2023 began, no doubt many of you made New Year’s Resolutions, and probably a few of those resolutions have already been broken. But resolutions don’t have to be life-changing nor do they have to begin with the start of the new year. There are many things you can do throughout the year to improve the quality of your life. The following are a few items that can be done during the year that can make your life better and possibly healthier.

  1. Clean your closet and drawers and get rid of anything you haven’t worn in at least a year, anything that doesn’t fit you, or anything that is too worn or ripped to repair. Donate what you can.
  2. Visit the last town you lived. Remember why you don’t live there anymore. Feel grateful for what you have in comparison to what you had.
  3. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, someplace you’ve always wanted to see but never did. In the coming editions of LivingPower, we’ll be highlighting interesting places here in North Carolina.
  4. Volunteer. It’s good for your soul, your mind, your heart, and your community. NCRGEA is working with Meals on Wheels for a big event in March that you can volunteer to be a part of. More on that to follow.
  5. Make a new friend — a real friend. Find things you have in common and do things together. One of the benefits of being a member of NCRGEA is the opportunity to meet people you have something in common with, you’re all state or local government retirees. Get your NCRGEA district’s Community Advisory Board, or CAB, to organize social events.
  6. Make all the doctor, dentist, and other appointments that are so easy to blow off. Take a look at your health coverage. Medical needs can change from year to year, so make sure the coverage you have meets the needs you have now and in the future. Contact our benefits partner AMBA to see if they can assist you.
  7. Rewatch your favorite movie, or reread your favorite book — and see if there’s now something else that jumps out at you with either age, experience, or simply new eyes. Then tell your new friend about it.
  8. Go somewhere really nice to eat. Dress up for it. It could be a “date” or a night out with friends, hopefully, ones you met through NCRGEA.
  9. Try something you’ve sworn all your life that you absolutely hate — but maybe just never really gave a chance.
  10. Make a conscious effort to thank all the people you might be taking for granted in your day-to-day life.
  11. Learn how to cook a new meal. Invite people over to share it with you.
  12. Spend time in nature, whether that’s on a day hike on a nearby trail, or a few days camping with your family and friends.
  13. Go to a museum, see a band or a sports game live, or watch a play or a musical. Experience culture without the help of technology.
  14. Give flowers to someone you love and appreciate.
  15. Reach out to someone you admire. Build a connection. See what you might be able to learn from them — and even how you might be able to help them, too.
  16. Try to make amends with someone with whom you might have had a falling out. If you can’t fix the relationship, at least let that wound heal as healthfully as possible.
  17. Ask yourself if you’re happy. And if you’re not, ask yourself what might help you work towards getting there, and then make it happen.
  18. Give yourself a self-administered fitness test. Consider instituting a tradition in which you challenge yourself to a set of physical tasks to see how you measure up.
  19. Take your pet to the vet and include blood work in the checkup. It’s a good way to get ahead of any health issues that could arise, ensure your pet is up-to-date on any necessary vaccinations, and get valuable insights into how your pet is doing.
  20. Find out what your credit score is by getting an annual free credit check. Also, schedule a visit with a financial advisor or your bank to review your money and your plans that may have occurred over the course of the year.
  21. Drain your hot water heater. It will help it last longer by eliminating any minerals or debris that have built up and could cause the unit to break down.
  22. Get your home’s carpets, rugs, and upholstery cleaned with steamers, a soapy bucket, a rented machine, or professionals. Other yearly cleanups include emptying the gutters and cleaning the fireplace and chimney.
  23. Once a year, bring in a professional to check out your car, air conditioning units, furnace, roof, gas appliances, the exterior of your house and pipes. Termite inspections should happen on the regular, too.
  24. To make sure smoke detectors are always in top form, test them monthly and replace batteries every year.

All Goals Accomplished With District Conferences

LivingPower Newsletter, Jan./Feb. 2023

During the first week of November, North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association held five district conferences. More than 850 members attended and heard from a variety of presenters what the association is doing for them, what state services are available to assist them, and what sponsors can provide them with to make their retired years less stressful.

Keith Daugherty, seated, a field representative with
AMBA, assists a Shelby conference attendee in
completing a form. AMBA was one of 13 different
organizations represented at the NCRGEA district
conferences that answered attendees’ questions
and assisted them with issues.

The conferences were held in Concord, Shelby, Winston Salem, Fayetteville, and Morehead City in order to reach members from throughout the state.

“We had three goals for each conference, and I’m happy to say we met each of them at every meeting,” said Tim O’Connell, NCRGEA’s Executive Director. “The first goal was to learn from our presenters, our NCRGEA team, and from each other.”

Thirteen different organizations were present during the conferences and had information tables set up where members could get help and information about the services available to them. Before the conference formally began and between breaks as well as during lunch, the representatives were busy assisting members.

North Carolina’s Department of Insurance and the State’s Treasure’s Office were present to help members on a one-on-one basis to solve issues they had. Service representatives from Humana, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, the State Employees’ Credit Union, the Local Government Federal Credit Union, and NCRGEA’s partner AMBA answered countless questions about their services. Many of the organizations also spoke to the group about issues they saw members facing, such as fraud schemes, and how they can assist in legal and financial planning matters.

“The meeting, information tables, and presentations were very informative,” wrote one attendee at the Fayetteville conference. “I learned new things that I can use.”

The second goal of the conferences was to make friends.

More than 600 NCRGEA members attended the
conference meetings held last November. The
Winston-Salem conference, shown here, had the
largest crowd with more than 215 attendees.

“One of our goals as an association is to bring retirees together,” O’Connell said. “This way they can share ideas about retired life, about ways we can make the association stronger and responsive to their needs, and what they need us to concentrate on on their behalf. From the table talk I heard and the feedback we got from members; we were successful.”

The last goal of the conferences was to eat good food. To ensure this was accomplished, each event was catered based on the head count of those who responded to the invitations.

In addition to meeting the three goals of the conferences, the feedback from the surveys was overwhelmingly positive.

Seventy percent of those responding to the survey said they attended the conferences for educational purposes and were satisfied with the results. Of those surveyed, just over 55% came to
find out about their benefits. Asked if they would attend another district conference, more than 86%
of those surveyed said they would.

One attendee in Winston Salem wrote, “I am fairly recently retired and wanted to learn more about the organization. The conference was very well organized and informative.”

Another attendee in Concord said in his/her survey, “Gained insight, and motivated me to be more active in seeking information and supporting this group.”

“From the results of the surveys, speaking to attendees, and feedback from our presenters, I feel confident we met most of the needs of our attendees,” said O’Connell. “We learned a lot, too, and will make a few changes in order to make conferences in the future even better. One of the changes we’re considering is to open the conferences up beyond district borders and allow members from throughout the state to attend any conference, regardless of where it’s located. Along those same lines, another possible change is to hold three conferences in the Spring and three in the Fall with one each in the Mountains, the Piedmont, and the Coastal Plain.

By making these changes, we hope to reach more members on a face-to-face basis so we can
get firsthand knowledge on what our members’ needs are and what they want from us.”

NCRGEA Prioritizes Its 2023 Legislative Agenda

LivingPower Newsletter, Jan./Feb. 2023

Last October at the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association’s Board of Directors meeting, Linda Suggs, Chairman of the Government Relations Committee, presented the committee’s recommendations for 2023 legislative priorities, which the full NCRGEA board unanimously approved. The list consisted of six items that focus on the quality of life of North Carolina’s retired state and local public servants.

Advocating for annual cost of living adjustments for all government retirees, state and local, was their top priority.

In presenting the proposed legislative agenda for 2023, “Working for a COLA for state and local retirees will always be number one on our list of legislative goals.”

“In the past 10 years, retired state employees’ COLA totaled only 2% and local government employee’s COLA increased by less than 1%,” said Tim O’Connell, NCRGEA’s Executive Director. “During this same 10-year period, inflation has eroded buying power by 29.8%, severely undermining North Carolinians’ ability to cover their expenses on a declining value of their fixed retirement income.”

The expansion of the Bailey tax exemption act for state and local government retirees and the
pursuit of other tax exemption opportunities is another of the committee’s priorities.

Under the Bailey Act, if you qualified for the NC state pension system or federal pension system, including military, for at least five years as of August 12, 1989, the money you receive from that pension is considered tax-exempt.

“Expanding the Bailey Act to local government and more state retirees would be a win for all parties involved,” Suggs added. “Our retirees would have more disposable income; this aligns with many political platforms of lowering taxes, and the state’s retirement fund remains sustainable because no additional funds are going out of it.”

During the recent district conferences, this effort was briefed to attendees by NCRGEA’s lobbyists and warmly received by attendees. Comments supporting our expansion efforts were the second most popular comments after increasing COLA.

Another of the committee’s priorities is to strengthen the state’s benefit plan to attract and retain the best and brightest public servants.

This issue is gaining attention. The Raleigh News & Observer ran an editorial on this issue on December 1, 2022. The Op-Ed piece states, “As benefits shrink and private sector wages rise, the state government is struggling to attract and keep workers who provide both basic and essential services. State agencies are reporting vacancy rates as high as 20-, 30-, and 40-percent.”

Linking COLA and the public servant vacancies issues together, NCRGEA’s O’Connell was quoted in the Op-Ed with, “The promise of what a pension would deliver upon retirement is not there the way it was for folks who retired 20 or 30 years ago.”

Two other priorities of the Government Relations Committee actually support each other: increasing in-person and telehealth access, improving health outcomes for retirees, and expanding first, middle, and last-mile broadband opportunities to provide increased, dependable, affordable access to broadband.

“In recent years, we have added improving health outcomes for retirees through increasing in-person and telehealth access and supporting affordable broadband access to our list of legislative priorities,” said Suggs.

Telehealth can allow patients to hold their medical appointments with doctors and medical personnel from their homes. This works best if the home has broadband capabilities.

The committee’s sixth priority is to continue to ensure the state of North Carolina will fulfill its constitutional requirement to fully fund North Carolina Retirement Systems and the State Health Plan.

“The North Carolina Retirement System (NCRS) is widely regarded as one of the best-funded in the nation,” said Frank Lester, Deputy Treasurer for Communications and Government Affairs. “In fact, Moody’s Investors Service reported that NCRS is the best-funded in the nation when looking at its Adjusted Net Pension Liability.

Additionally, a recent “stress test” by The Pew Charitable Trusts concluded that North Carolina’s state pension fund is well-positioned to maintain solvency during tough economic times.”

According to Lester, the State Health Plan is underfunded but getting healthier. Between June 30, 2021 and June 30, 2022, the deficit shrank by more than $7 billion according to a report by The Segal Group.

“Our goals are always focused on maintaining the quality of life for our state and local retirees, who provided such dedicated service to all North Carolinians during their working years,” said Suggs.