A new report released by the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS) shows that the pension plan is a small portion of local government budgets and is a good investment for employers.
In LAGERS first Pension Finance Survey, the pension fund asked around 700 local government financial officials about their views on the cost of the program. Almost all (97%) of the respondents said they believe LAGERS is a good investment for their organization. Only one responded that LAGERS is not a good investment and three responded that they didn’t know if it is a good investment.
The survey also found that contributions to LAGERS account for a small percentage of the overall local government’s budget. On average, only 2.8% of a local government’s budget goes toward paying the cost of the LAGERS program and over eight in ten respondents do not believe that LAGERS costs are a burden to their organization. These points likely contributed to the respondents saying LAGERS is a good investment.
According to LAGERS, the purpose of this survey was to gain insight into the funding of LAGERS benefits from their member employers’ point of view. The responses have helped LAGERS staff and board understand how member employers view their LAGERS costs and how these costs affect their overall operation.
The Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS) earned a 13.70% net of fees return for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018 according to LAGERS’ Chief Investment Officer, Brian Collett. This return helped the plan increase its funding ratio to 95.6% on an actuarial value basis and 99.5% on a market value basis.
The $7.7 billion pension fund beat its policy benchmark by 5.76% and its 7.25% assumed rate of return by 6.45% for the year. The returns also exceeded these benchmarks for each of the three, five, and ten year periods that ended June 30, 2018.
“LAGERS members’ investment portfolio performance was in the top 1% among portfolios across the country. This was mainly driven by the increased allocation into private real assets and private fixed income. These returns strengthen the stability of LAGERS, insuring the security of members’ retirement,” Collett said.
Collett updated LAGERS’ Board of Trustees on the fiscal year end returns and the investment activity from the last quarter at the September 14th meeting. Notable investment activity during the last quarter included a commitment of $60 million to the Riverside Micro-Cap Fund V, LP (Riverside V). LAGERS previously committed $31.5 million to Fund IV.
The fund’s actuary also presented the annual valuation results at the meeting. The actuary reported that LAGERS remains in a strong financial position with its funding ratio continuing to trend toward 100%.
“The good news about this is it puts downward pressure on employer contribution rates and makes sure we fully fund the benefits for all LAGERS members and their families,” said Bob Wilson, LAGERS’ Executive Director.
LAGERS’ CIO, Brian Collett, has been named as a finalist for the Innovation Award from Chief Investment Officer Magazine. Under Collett’s leadership, LAGERS’ portfolio has beat its policy benchmark by 5.76% and its 7.25% assumed rate of return by 6.45% for most recent fiscal year that ended June 30, 2018. The returns also exceeded these benchmarks for each of the three, five, and ten year periods that ended June 30, 2018.
According to Chief Investment Officer, the goal of the Innovation Award is “to highlight the truly innovative approaches to asset owning and asset management, separating the merely different from the meaningful.” There are four other finalists in Collett’s category for “Public Defined Benefit Plans Below $15 Billion.” Finalists are chosen from hundreds of entries and only the “brightest and most forward-looking” asset managers are selected. The winner of the award will be announced on December 13th.
Collett has served as LAGERS CIO since 2005. His responsibilities include managing LAGERS’ investment portfolio and serving as the investment advisor to the LAGERS’ Board of Trustees. Prior to his CIO position, Collett held various positions across the investment industry including Senior Research Manager for the South Carolina Retirement Systems and a Senior Technology Analyst for the Russell Investment Group. Collett currently serves on several advisory boards for numerous US and global investment funds. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Marian University and a Master of Business Administration from Butler University. He earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1999 and the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst designation in 2010.
June 22, 2018 - The Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS), the pension fund that covers more than 60,000 Missouri local government employees and retirees, is 95.6%* pre-funded according to the system’s actuary. This is up from 94.8% a year ago.
"LAGERS' solid funding comes from our strong plan structure and our employer's commitment to consistent contributions," said Bob Wilson, the Executive Director of the $7 billion LAGERS fund.
The pre-funded rate represents a pension plan’s assets versus liabilities, or, how much money a plan has on hand today to pay the benefits promised for tomorrow.. Though LAGERS strives to be 100% funded, an 80% funded rate is normally considered the benchmark for a well-funded plan and the average funded rate for US public plans is 72%, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. A 95% funded rate is roughly equivalent to having pre-funded 95% of your home mortgage.
An increase in the funded rate is good news for the more than 700 local government employers that participate in the LAGERS system, and ultimately, taxpayers across Missouri because it means LAGERS is in a better position to meet all of its obligations now and into the future.
*This funded percentage unaudited and may be subject to adjustment.
June 19, 2018 - In an effort to keep members' and employers' information safe in the ever-changing world of cyber security, LAGERS participates in an annual security assessment of its core systems. LAGERS recently scored a 4 out of 4 rating, meeting and exceeding industry best practices for information security during its annual information security assessment held in June, 2017. The assessment was performed by project engineers at nGuard, an outside firm hired by LAGERS to identify vulnerabilities in the environment that is associated with LAGERS' key systems, networks and processes. A representative from nGuard stated that "LAGERS is in the top 5 companies in terms of score and findings" from the companies' overall assessments issued.
LAGERS continues to follow its Board of Trustees directive to make the security of all members' information a primary focus and priority, and LAGERS staff is committed to this initiative to maintain a high level of security for our members and employers.
Strong investment returns are always good news for members, employers, and taxpayers alike. LAGERS credits excess investment gains back to the employers helping to ensure the future security of the system and the members we serve.
And while one-year returns are of note, LAGERS greater focus remains on ensuring the long-term security of the system so that Missouri’s local government employers can continue to rely on LAGERS as a tool that attracts and retains the highest skilled, most dedicated public workers into our local communities.
Missouri’s largest retirement system for local government workers has partnered with UMass Medical School’s Disability Evaluation Services to provide enhancements and support for its disability certification and re-certification process.
Determining disability eligibility is a critical component of the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS), a $6.9 billion system that covers close to 60,000 current and former local government employees within the state of Missouri.
“We were seeking to improve our process and access to expertise in our disability claim analysis and review. We were impressed with UMass’ depth of resources, degree of effort and desire to assist us with process improvement,” said LAGERS Executive Secretary Robert Wilson. “We’ve found them very responsive and dedicated to helping us improve.”
“This has been a culmination of effort by our local government leaders, state legislators, and LAGERS staff, and we are excited to see our first plan transfer administration into our system,” says outgoing director Keith Hughes. “The heart of this legislation was truly to provide an alternative solution to local governments who wanted to get out of the pension administration business.”
And that’s just what the City of Jefferson will be doing on July 1st. “As far as both city retirees and LAGERS members are concerned, they shouldn’t notice anything different as we expect the transition to be seamless, but we hope that it will be a burden lifted on the city,” notes incoming director Bob Wilson.
“We have been overwhelmed by the positive response from employers across the state,” Wilson adds, “and we have several more employers already waiting in line to transfer their plans into LAGERS.”
The City of Jefferson originally joined LAGERS in 1970, but only offered LAGERS benefits to its general and police employers, while fire employees participated in a separate pension fund. The city has since closed their Fire Pension Fund and all new hires in the Fire Department now participate in LAGERS. Retirees in the closed Fire Pension Fund will, effective July 1st, begin receiving their pension check from LAGERS instead of the city, but will otherwise not notice anything different. The city, however, will no longer bear any of the administrative, actuarial, auditing, legal, investment, or compliance burden of managing a pension fund.
“This truly is a win-win for everyone. Retirees are assured their benefits remain secure and the city can focus on providing great services for its taxpayers. LAGERS is truly honored to be a part of this,” notes Wilson.
January 31, 2017 - The Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS) will celebrate 50 years of providing retirement security to Missouri’s local government workers in 2017!
Missouri LAGERS was created in 1967 by the 74th Missouri General Assembly as the ultimate retirement solution for local government employers across the state. Prior to LAGERS’ creation, only the largest governmental employers in the state could legally establish a retirement plan for non-uniformed employees. Through a cooperative effort in the mid-1960s with the Missouri Municipal League, local government units from across the state decided to change the law and together create a system that could provide a retirement solution for all of Missouri’s local government workers. No matter how big or small the community, LAGERS' founding members believed that a strong retirement system is a tool for attracting and retaining the highest quality employees into Missouri’s local communities, and provides those public servants with a tool to reach a secure retirement.
Fifty years later, Missouri LAGERS still holds this belief: that every hardworking public servant should be able to retire with a little dignity and security and that LAGERS can be a great solution that benefits both public workers and the communities they serve.
Beginning with just ten chartering member employers, LAGERS membership growth has been remarkable and steady for five decades with approximately 15 new local government employers choosing to partner with the system every year. Today LAGERS is comprised of nearly 700 local government units with nearly $7 billion in assets and serves nearly 60,000 members, retirees, and beneficiaries.
Over the years, LAGERS has established itself as a nationally recognized pension system. In 2015, LAGERS was named Plan Sponsor of the Year, by PLANSPONSOR magazine. The system’s strong plan design and funding policies have positioned LAGERS well for the future. LAGERS boasts a 95% funded ratio along with strong long-term investment performance and robust participant services. LAGERS truly has broken the retirement system mold and continues to set the standard in pension administration across the county.
LAGERS is planning to celebrate its 50th birthday in several ways:
LAGERS Board of Trustees recently adopted a new vision statement: “A Secure Retirement for All.” Our vision is the very essence of why LAGERS staff gets up and goes to work each and every day. We strive in everything we do to ensure that our members can someday retire with dignity and security.
Coming in July 2017, LAGERS will be rolling out an all-new responsive website. The new website will feature enhanced user navigation; new, interactive content, and even more great ways to connect with your LAGERS system. LAGERS remains committed to ensuring that you have the best access to information you need about your benefits!
Stay tuned on our social media channels throughout the year as we look back at a complete 50 year history of the LAGERS system. Beginning as a dream in 1967, LAGERS has grown into a nationally acclaimed pension system, setting the gold standard for pension administration across the county.
LAGERS Annual Meeting
Don’t forget to join us at our annual meeting as we return to the site of our very first LAGERS Annual Meeting at Lake of the Ozarks.
Jefferson City, MO - October 18, 2016 The Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System (LAGERS) Director of Investments Megan Loehner was named one of the Top 30 Women Rising Stars in Institutional Investing by Trusted Insight magazine.
At LAGERS, Megan's job entails focusing on all aspects of portfolio management. She is a graduate of University of Missouri, where she received a B.S. and a master’s degree in accounting. Loehner is a Certified Public Accountant, a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.
An excerpt of the interview with Trusted Insight:
"Many people don’t understand the math on what they would actually receive over a lifetime compared to what they contribute to their pension. It’s not that the systems don’t relay these important messages, sometimes the small negatives or the overbearing bold print on the front of the newspaper overshadows the large positives within the fine print, and sometimes there’s a disconnect in the desire to understand."
For more information or to read the article, go to