“Helpful Without Pressure”

March 23, 2018 – CAMDEN, NJ School District

During my TPAF and Retirement Review I was very impressed with Steve Carter. He answered my questions and basically was there to help me. It didn’t matter if I signed up with him or not, he was willing to assist me. When I told him I needed time to think about what I wanted to do with my investments at that point in my life, he said no problem. I did not feel pressured at all.

I did decide to invest with his company and mostly because I was impressed with Steve’s knowledge and helpfulness. Every time we needed to meet Steve asked me what was the best time for me and he would make it happen. He takes the clients needs into consideration and that doesn’t happen much anymore.

I have had some problems getting my previous company to release me and I was never on my own. Steve was there to help me through the process. I have met with several others during a review and none of them helped me like he has. I trust him and I believe that he really wants the best for his clients.

Alice J Stewart
Teacher
Dudley Elementary School
Camden, NJ

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Helping 1,897+ Teachers

“Awesome Help to Trenton Educators”

Steve has been an awesome help to all educators in the Trenton School District. He is very knowledgeable and has gone beyond the call of duty to assist in every aspect of retirement planning.
– Sharron Grady, TRENTON School District

“Personable, Clear & Succinct”

My Meeting with Steve was just PERFECT! He was organized, professional & very personable which helped me feel quiet comfortable. He presented the information in a way that was clear and succinct, clearly detailing aspects of my pension. It was a pleasure working with Steve and thank him for his excellent work!
– Bob MacCausland, GLOUCESTER School District

“Valuable Retirement & College Savings Advice”

My Meeting with After meeting with you last year, I felt empowered to make informed decisions in my life now for retirement. The advice you gave me regarding paying for my children’s college education was absolutely valuable. Thank you.
– Ebony Kinder, PENNSAUKEN School District

“Genuinely Cares About Teachers”

Steve was very informative about educating me in the transition from a 401K plan to a 403B plan. Steve was very patient with me and thoroughly answered all my questions and addressed my concerns. It was a pleasure working with Steve because he genuinely cares about his teachers!
– Stacy Diggs, Winslow School District

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“Made Process Easy…Patient”

Steve was very helpful in explaining my 403B to me and calculating when I can retire. He came to me at my school and was very accommodating with the time of our meeting. I know he lives very far away and it meant a lot that he made the process so easy for me to do. He had some issues with my old company and he was very patient and walked me through the process of what to do step by step. I was so pleased with him that I referred him to a co-worker and she too was very pleased with his work. Thanks again Steve!

Amy Nicholls
Kindergarten & 6th Grade

“Asked Nothing From Me”

I met with Steve in June of last school year wondering what would come of our conversation. Steve examined my financials including what I would possibly get from TPAF in retirement. He made several helpful suggestions and asked nothing from me, nor did he pitch me any product. I came away understanding my retirement situation more. I am always suspect of altruism but in this case, I believe it was real!:)

Beth

“Less Risk” – Camden

I like to just summarize in a few short sentences how Mr. Carter helped me with my tax shelter. When I had questions about my tax shelter, Mr. Carter sat with me and broke down the information that I needed to know. I was reluctant at first to consider making a decision about a large amount of money. Thinking of my future and financial matter, I decided to proceed with changes to increase my investment and put in less of a risk on the market.

Maria Lalave
Camden School District


“Quick and Easy” – Pine Hill

Steve was very informative. He took the time to explain everything and answer all of my questions! He showed me how to access my retirement projection on the NJ website, and helped me get the papers completed that I needed to start a retirement savings. It was quick and easy and now I feel proactive for my future.

Margaret Diaz
Pine Hill Schools


“Professional, Friendly & Prompt” – Willingboro

Steve Carter was prompt in meeting with me about what I need to know for my future retirement. He was helpful in explaining an estimate on what my pension money will bring so I can plan for my future. He was very professional and friendly and reminded me that I can reach out to him when I have any questions that need answered.

Paulette Chiolan
Willingboro School District


“Explained Options to Increase Savings” – Winslow

Steve was able to answer all the questions that I had concerning my retirement. He explained the various options I have available to me and showed me ways that I could increase my retirement savings. I was not aware of these options and I now feel more confident of my future, especially as I reach retirement age.

Denise Moran
Winslow School District


“Made it Happen” – Camden

Steve made it happen for my 403B contribution. He made the whole process seamless and easy. We talked about the many miles he puts on his car to service clients throughout the South Jersey area.

Gregory Louderback
Teacher of Library Skills Development
Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy
Camden School District


“Put me at Ease”

“Steve is very personable, friendly, and easy to talk with. He answered all my questions and put me at ease.”

Tracy Fowler


“A Great Help for Me & My Family

Steve, was a great help for me who delivered a very good presentation to me about retirement. He explained to me a few options that would benefit me and my Family after I retire. Mr Carter knows the business and I recomnend him to anybody who need assistance with PLANNING for their retirement. Great Job.

L. Marty Johnson


“Outstanding in Customer Service”

Steve Carter was very helpful during our first meeting, and has been outstanding in customer service ever since. No matter how “dumb” my questions might seem, Mr. Carter is always eager and knowledgeable to explain and alleviate all my concerns.

Andrea Ortiz


“Empowered About Retirement & College”

After meeting with you last year, I felt empowered to make informed decisions in my life now for retirement. The advice you gave me regarding paying for my children’s college education was absolutely valuable. Thank you.

Ebony Kinder


“Explained in Terms I Understand…Quick”

Steve Carter was extremely helpful during my TPAF and retirement review. It was all brand new information for me, and Steve was able to explain everything in language and terms that I would understand. He works around your schedule and makes sure his appointments are quick! I am very pleased with my experience!

Bridget Bollendorf


“Helps and Stays in Touch” – Camden

Steve helped me transfer funds to a 403B retirement savings. His professionalism and knowledge were impeccable. He stayed in touch during the process and still calls to keep me updated. I was very pleased with the whole experience.

Audrey Gougon


“Decided to Retire”

Steve was helpful in helping me make a decision with retirement. I therefore met with pension and am retiring in July of this year. Thank-you.

Denise Mylowe


“Now Understand My 403(b)”

Steve broke everything down for me so that I could understand my 403(b). I still have a few more years before I can retire, but at least I feel like I know what’s on the horizon as far as my finances.

Tonda Seals


“Friendly & Informative Way of Explaining Options” – Pine Hill

Working with Steve was a truly enjoyable experience. Typically, financial matters make me anxious but Steve had a friendly and informative way of explaining my options and helped me make a good retirement decision moving forward.

Tom D.


“Helped Me”

Steve helped me to see what I need to do to retire and gave me an approximate time.

Jeff Smith

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NJ Ranks 95th in Pension Generosity

If you’d prefer to read a PDF version of this report, click here.

Stephen Herzenberg is Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center

While one of the central tenets of repeated calls for major changes to New Jersey’s public pension system is the claim that public employee pensions are overly generous, retirement benefits for the state’s public workers are already among the least generous of all large public-sector pensions in the country, in part because of cuts enacted in the pension reforms of 2011.

In fact, New Jersey ranks 95th in pension generosity among the country’s 100 largest plans.

95th out of Top 100

To arrive at a ranking for each plan, we measured three key dimensions of pension generosity: whether the plans offer inflation protection to retirees, how benefits are calculated and the amount employees contribute to their own retirement plans. (For the full methodology, see Appendix A.)

Here’s how New Jersey gets its low ranking for overall generosity:

• New Jersey retirees have no automatic protection against inflation. 

While 69 of the 100 largest plans offer retirees some inflation protection, cost-of-living adjustments for New Jersey retirees were suspended indefinitely by the 2011 legislative pension reforms.

• New Jersey uses a very low multiplier. 

The percentage by which New Jersey calculates state pensions per year of service – known as the multiplier – is among the lowest nationally, at 1.67 percent. This means pensions benefits equal 1.67 percent of final salary multiplied by the number of years of service; 1.67 percent is a lower multiplier than all but 21 of the 100 plans. New Jersey lowered the multiplier from 1.81 percent in 2011.

• New Jersey employees pay more into the system than those in most other systems. 

New Jersey public employees contribute 6.93 percent of their salaries to their own pensions, more than 55 other plans in the top 100. By 2018, the employee contribution level for New Jersey pensions will rise to 7.5 percent, which is more than employees contribute today in about two-thirds of the top 100 plans.

In addition to being some of the least generous pensions in the country, New Jersey’s pensions are modest in dollar amounts, even though the Garden State remains one of the highest-cost states in which to live.

Pension benefits in New Jersey average $26,000. State employees receive $25,000 on average and local government employees about $16,000. Teacher pensions average $40,000.[1] While police and fire personnel receive higher average benefits, their benefits are inflated by comparison with other groups (both public and private) because New Jersey police and fire retirees do not receive Social Security. Correcting for this brings safety personnel average benefits down to $41,402.

• Lower overall compensation than private-sector employees.

Lastly, overall compensation for New Jersey’s public-sector workers is comparable to the state’s private-sector workers. Total annual compensation is 4.1 percent lower for public employees than for comparable private employees (with similar levels of education and other characteristics), according to a 2010 study by Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations.[2] The study confirmed that benefits are indeed higher for public employees than for comparable private employees, but found that public wages and salaries are lower by a more than offsetting amount, with the result that overall public-sector compensation slightly trails that in the private sector. There’s a reason people never say, “I’m leaving the private sector to go and make more money.”

The Real Pension Problem? The State’s Failure to Contribute

New Jersey’s real pension problem is lack of employer contributions, not overly generous retirement benefits.

The source of New Jersey’s unfunded pension liabilities is the state’s persistent failure to make annual required contribution payments. New Jersey ranks last among the 50 states – by a large margin – for the share of required pension contributions actually made since the early 2000s.[3] Gov. Christie exacerbated New Jersey’s worst-in-the-nation ranking in the last budget when he line-item vetoed $900 million in pension contributions and announced plans to short pensions by nearly $2.5 billion in the 2014 and 2015 budgets combined. This veto was unnecessary as well as imprudent because the Legislature had found a way to raise the needed revenue without burdening New Jersey’s middle class.

In sum, New Jersey’s pension benefits are not more generous than most other large plans, no matter the standard of comparison. What is out of line is New Jersey’s 50th-place ranking when it comes to making required employer pension contributions. Chronic underfunding is the primary reason New Jersey has an $83 billion unfunded pension liability. Solving New Jersey’s self-inflicted pension crisis requires the state to obey the law by contributing its legally obligated share.

Appendix A: Methodology

For this analysis, we combined New Jersey’s two biggest pension plans (the plans for teachers and for state/local government employees) with the 99 other largest pension plans for non-public safety personnel in a national state pension database.[4] This database is maintained by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA) and accessible online at http://www.publicfundsurvey.org/www/publicfundsurvey/normalretirementprovisions.asp.

To rank each pension plan’s overall generosity, we first compare our 100 largest state pension plans on three separate measures of pension generosity:

• The strength of their automatic inflation protection (assuming 2.5 percent inflation).

• The amount by which pensions increase with each additional year of public service as a percentage of “final average salary,” an amount commonly referred to as “the multiplier.” (Final average salary is usually calculated as the average salary over the final three or five years of an individual’s public service.)

• The amount employees contribute to their own pensions. When employees contribute less, we consider their pension more generous.

Overall generosity is determined by giving each pension plan a score out of 100 based on its rank on these three separate dimensions of pension generosity. A pension plan ranked first on one of the dimensions receives 100 points, a pension plan ranked 100th receives one point.

Adding up the three ranks generates the plan’s overall generosity score. The 1st-place-ranked and most generous pension plan received an overall score of 225.5. The least generous pension plan by far, with a score of 24.5, covers municipal employees in California’s Contra Costa County. The pension plan ranked 99th, the New Hampshire Retirement System, received an overall generosity score of 74.5, not far below New Jersey’s 85.


Endnotes

[1] The New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission reports higher benefit levels because it reports the average for new retirees and it does not adjust police and fire benefits to take account of the fact that members do not participate in Social Security. See Truth and Consequence: Status Report of the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission, September 2014.
[2] Economic Policy Institute, Fact Sheet: New Jersey Public-Sector Workers Are Undercompensated Compared with Private-Sector Counterparts, February 2011, and Are New Jersey Public Employees Overpaid? July 2010.
[3] New Jersey Policy Perspective and Keystone Research Center, How to Dig an Even Deeper Pension Hole, September 2014.
[4] We exclude pension plans for safety employees such as police and fire, because these employee groups have more generous benefits in New Jersey and in most other states. Our estimates of the generosity of New Jersey’s pension plans are conservative in the following sense: in comparing other pensions to New Jersey’s pensions for teachers and state/local employees, if there was ambiguity in the generosity of other state pension plans compared to New Jerseys, we erred on the side of recording the other states’ systems as less generous.