'Tier 1 excess' PERS member defends herself

Guilty; I confess. I'm a much-maligned, deemed selfish, PERS Tier 1 holder.

Why would I expose this dirty little secret? Because I think it's time for Oregonians to recognize that not every PERS (unfortunate acronym) retiree is a fat cat living off a fortune, lounging on a beach somewhere (as portrayed in Jesse Springer's editorial cartoon in last Sunday's Mail Tribune).

I'll admit there may be a retired professor in Florida who worked only long enough to become vested and then fled. However, most of the folks I know are just trying to get by like everybody else.

I noticed that the "funny" cartoon portrayed the retirement abuser as a woman. That's not surprising. Public employees in traditionally male positions such as firefighter or police officer aren't usually viewed as large-pawed dippers. They saved lives.

Guess what? I also did; I worked for a large teaching hospital for 20 years, primarily in a clerical position. Nearly all my bosses were male, and they made more money than I ever did. How did they escape this emotion-inflaming caricature?

Furthermore, I am not gazing at a warm, blue sea, but rather a cold, gray screen. I'm in the process of trying to figure out my retirement years. Believe me, when I took a look at my PERS statement, I felt fortunate to also have my husband's pension and our savings.

When I accepted a position with the State of Oregon in the '80s, the administrator who hired said, "You're young. You're bright. Why would you want to go to work for the state?"

Why? I wanted security. My friends and peers told me I had to be nuts. I watched them go to work in the private sector; get raises, get promoted, move up. I struggled along with my choice for years — without raises or advancement — because I knew, in the long run, the retirement account would secure my future. Now I am being defamed for it, being ridiculed in political cartoons.

I'll accept the bullying because I know the truth. My efforts were far from selfish. I sacrificed and worked hard for 20 years in what was at times an extremely frustrating environment. Believe what you may, but I'm proud of the years I served the people of Oregon.

I'm not a purse, but rather a person who has earned a retirement account.

Share This Story