What Drew These Millennial PERA Members to Public Service

April 24, 2018

A few weeks ago, we shared some not-so-great news about millennial retirement savings trends (TL;DR: According to a recent report, two-thirds of millennials have $0 saved for retirement—not good considering most financial experts estimate that millennials will need to put away 15% to 22% of their salary starting in their 20s if they’re to try to ensure a secure retirement).

Luckily, it's never too late for those who have fallen behind on their savings goals to get back on track. One way to do that? Consider working for a Colorado PERA employer. 

All employees of the 500+ employers across the PERA system have access to PERA's defined benefit plan—and the secure retirement it provides—starting on Day 1. What's more, the portability component of the plan allows employees to move among PERA's many community organizations, school districts, local municipalities, and governmental entities and continue to accrue their PERA benefit. And the real clincher: Once they reach retirement eligibility, PERA members will receive a monthly income from the system for the rest of their lives. (How's that for retirement security?)

Interested in learning more about PERA's millennial members and what drew them to careers in public service? We tracked down a few for you.

Sarah Taylor, an elementary school psychologist in the St. Vrain Valley School District (part of PERA's School Division) says that a typical day for her is hard to describe—mostly because psychologists are often tasked with many different duties in school.

“Usually it involves seeing students in small social groups or one-on-one; administering and evaluating  academic, cognitive, and social/emotional assessments; facilitating problem-solving meetings and/or IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings; consulting with teachers and parents to help improve student behavior in the classroom and at home; helping kids "de-escalate" after behavior episodes; and identifying struggling students, and developing interventions to help target individual student needs,” Taylor says. (If that sounds like a lot for one day, it is.)

“I’ve learned to accept that my schedule has to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the day,” she says. The rewards, she reassures, are many. “The best part of my job is helping kids. It’s incredibly rewarding and makes the hard work worth it when a child’s learning takes off in response to interventions designed based on his or her strengths and needs.”

Millennial members are working behind the scenes, too, helping to support the staff (like Taylor) working directly with kids in the schools.

Brittany Burton, a regional communications specialist for Denver Public Schools (part of PERA's DPS Division), works on communications strategy, marketing, and branding for individual schools.

“I also work on the school choice and enrollment process district-wide,” she says. “I enjoy helping to educate parents about choosing unique programs for their kids, as well as expanding diversity in all of our schools.”

School districts aren’t the only place millennials are making a difference for Coloradans. They’re also doing it at the state level. One of them is Jack Wylie, government affairs liaison for the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration (part of PERA's State Division), which oversees most of the Human Resources functions for the state.

When the General Assembly is in session from early January until early May, Wylie pays close attention to the members of the state House and Senateboth on the floor, and in their various committees.

During the interim, I spend most of my time in the office preparing for the next session,” he says. “It takes a lot of work to develop budget and legislative proposals.”

Some with law backgrounds choose to contribute their skills to affecting change on statewide policylike Jennifer M. Anderson, J.D., director of legislative affairs for the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

[Working with] the legislature is a more direct and fast way to change the law, Anderson says. It’s a system in which there’s some trial and error with what gets passed, but it’s ultimately about solutions. You can create solutions through legislation, and that is what I really like. It feels productive.

This is just a small sampling of the types of work that PERA's millennial members engage in within the PERA system. Suffice it to say, if public service is where your heart is, you'll find fulfillment (and retirement security) in working for a PERA employer.