Gregory W. Smith: We work for Colorado, Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

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Gregory W. Smith: We work for Colorado, Routt County

Ellen Bonnifield retired after working for 30 years in the South Routt School District. After a career educating local school children, she's now able to give back to her community through a variety of volunteer activities, including teaching sewing for her granddaughter's 4H Club and leading tours of Historic Routt County.

Why do I mention Ellen? Because she is a Public Employees' Retirement Association retiree. And like so many of her retired colleagues here in Routt County, her career of public service isn't quite over. She, and 500,000 other current and former public employees in Colorado, inspire and motivate all of us who have the pleasure to work on their behalf at Colorado PERA.

In late June, Colorado PERA released its annual financial report containing another clean audit by KPMG and showing earnings of more than $6 billion in investment performance, a return of 15.6 percent and an improved funded ratio. This strong investment performance comes even with a more conservative assumption on future investment returns the PERA Board implemented last year.

As a result of our positive investment growth, PERA now manages $47 billion in assets for more than 500,000 Coloradans, including 2,391 current, former and retired public employees who live in Routt County. This is an all-time high and means more than half a million Coloradans now can depend upon a more stable and secure long-term retirement savings and investment plan.

With the strong investment return in 2013, PERA's 30 year annualized return reached 9.5 percent showing PERA is sustainable for the long term. The bipartisan 2010 legislative reforms, which were supported by active and retired members, employers, PERA Board members and policy makers, continue to make steady progress toward the goal of full funding for the plan serving most Colorado public workers. This means all the people who work for the public, who are building our communities and ensuring our quality of life, have more certainty to plan and save for their families' futures.

PERA is a not-for-profit economic engine consistently delivering value to Colorado and its largest workforce. PERA is a vital and stable contributor to Colorado's economy, distributing more than $3 billion in 2013 to retirees who live in Colorado ($11.5 million in Routt County alone) which helps sustain nearly 26,000 jobs, making it one of Colorado's best investments.

The facts show Americans are not saving enough for retirement, and if that doesn't change, we could begin to see more tax dollars being spent on publicly funded assistance and social services for retirees. Having a retirement or pension plan like PERA ensures Coloradans, and especially the 300 retirees in Routt County like Ellen who worked hard for their community, will have the certainty, security and stability to meet their financial obligations today and into the future.

Gregory W. Smith is the executive director of Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association.