His life changed in an instant.
When Tyler answered his phone, the voice on the other end told him that his two-year-old son, Ryan, was being flown to Children’s Hospital. His wife, Lori, had been killed in a car accident. She had been on her way to drop off Ryan at day care before heading to teach kindergarten at Niwot Elementary.
Lori grew up near Greeley, Colorado, and went to the University of Northern Colorado to pursue a degree in teaching.
Her first teaching position was in Wellington, and after she and Tyler moved to Firestone, she began teaching at Niwot Elementary.
Grief stricken, Tyler sat with his young son in the hospital and began thinking of everything he would now face. Life as a single father. Making ends meet on one income. Caring for his son as he recovered from a traumatic accident after losing his mother.
Staff from the St. Vrain school district quickly met with Tyler to reassure him that they, along with Colorado PERA, would manage the details of Lori’s survivor benefits. As a teacher and member of PERA, Lori had earned a survivor benefit for Tyler and his son.
It gave him some reassurance.
“They sat me down, walked me through Lori’s benefit and explained what I had and what Ryan and I would get,” Tyler said.
“It felt like she had left a way to care for me and meet our needs,” he added. “Lori was a great teacher. PERA stepped in and helped to fill a gap – the difference between what we had been earning together and what I could manage on my own.”
“Life is messy, no matter what,” Tyler remarked. “Lori’s PERA benefit helped to soften the blow. It gave us some income and helped me feel stable. I felt like I had my financial needs covered. It gave me the space to take a little time off work and to take Ryan to Sea World.“
“There were new financial challenges I faced,” Tyler added. “There were medical bills to pay and counseling to help Ryan manage his grief and the trauma of being in the accident. PERA stepped in and provided us with a safety net after Lori’s death.”
The benefit that Tyler and Ryan received has continued to help support them throughout Ryan’s childhood and will even provide support if Ryan goes to college. And once Tyler reaches retirement age, he will benefit from the retirement savings that Lori earned while she was working.
“PERA has not only provided us with financial stability,” he said, “but it gives us reassurance knowing that for decades, we have a benefit we can count on.”
“As a beneficiary of this amazing system, I’ve seen what the managers of the PERA funds can do. They have the ability, skills and cautious wisdom to grow the value of their fund even in a conservative market environment. It’s a safety net that, for us, has become a real legacy.”
“PERA has created an opportunity for Ryan and me to share a legacy. As a teacher, Lori was making a difference, and now we can continue that today and in the future.”
Find out more about PERA's built-in survivor benefits here.