ETF Secretary John Voelker

January 1 marked 40 years since legislation implementing the Wisconsin Retirement System became effective. So, what do you get a retirement system on its anniversary? When I am stumped for gift ideas, I usually check the internet. I discovered that a 40th anniversary is symbolized by the ruby. The more I read about what the ruby represents, the more I realized it would be the perfect gift.

The ruby is regarded as promoting wealth and knowledge. It is also a protector of possessions. Amazing—these are also some of the key qualities of the WRS.

Wealth

WRS retirement benefits are a key part of our participants' long-term financial security. The WRS lifetime benefit provides a piece of mind for the retirement years. The approximately $6 billion in pension payments that are paid on an annual basis are subsequently spent in communities across the state; this in turn supports local economies.

Knowledge

As the administrator of the WRS, the Department of Employee Trust Funds is committed to providing expert guidance so you can make good decisions on the use of your benefits. We also realize you’re wanting to do more online. Our website was redesigned in 2019, and it now includes interactive tools and short videos to make it easier to get the information you need.

During the past two years of the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of members have been served virtually, compared to in-person. In the coming years, our modernization efforts will make it possible for you to securely and conveniently access your individual benefits and do more online. Of course, our call center staff are always happy to help.

Protector of Possessions

As a trust fund, your contributions and the investment earnings can only be used for your benefit. Combine that with disciplined administration—which has resulted in one of the best funded plans in the country—and you'll see that the WRS is well-positioned to pay promised benefits for years to come.

We applaud anniversaries because it takes hard work to make any marriage or program successful over the long run. For the WRS, that has included the ETF Board and the State of Wisconsin Investment Board working in the best interest of the system and its members. The ETF Board is constantly working with ETF and independent consulting actuaries to ensure program sustainability. This was recently exhibited when the board worked with the actuaries to adjust economic assumptions used in performing the annual system valuation.

Having reasonable assumptions is critical to keeping the WRS well-funded. SWIB and its staff are continually assessing appropriate risk and investment opportunities. Their performance over the years have led to 80% of WRS revenues coming from investment income.

The ruby symbolizes the strength of the WRS in many ways, but no gifts are required. As with any anniversary, the real gift is knowing you have a committed and dependable partner on your side. That is something worth celebrating.