Retirement Security For All

What People Are Saying

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Elementary teacher Cheryl Perry says traditional pensions are key to attracting the right kind of people into the teaching profession.
Kevin Hickerson is a high school special education teacher in his early 30s who says he's happy to accept a modest salary in exchange for financial security in retirement. He says his colleagues feel the same way – that it’s the pension that keeps them in education.
Art teacher Precious Crabtree says her defined benefit pension gives her the guarantees she needs to plan for her future.
Veteran elementary school teacher Barry Weinstein says that for everyone, there comes a time when you have to retire – and that traditional pensions deliver a lot more security than defined contribution retirement plans.
At 33, Jessica Pickett is a five-year veteran firefighter and medic -- the fourth generation of her family to serve as a firefighter. In the performance of her duties, she has suffered permanent lung damage, stress fractures to her knees and exposure to a long list of dangerous chemicals and diseases. Her work schedule limits the amount of time she can spend with her police officer husband and their two young daughters. Jessica says her pension will allow her not just financial security in retirement, but time with her family.
Jeffrey Carter has been teaching in inner city public schools for nearly four decades -- first in Brooklyn, NY, then in Prince Georges County, MD and for the past 25 years in Baltimore City, MD. He holds two master's degrees (in science and in elementary and middle school administration/supervision) and will be awarded his Doctor of Education in Urban Education Leadership in the fall of 2011. Over the course of his career, he has been beaten, had bones broken and has undergone surgeries because of the dangers of the neighborhoods where his schools have been located. He has also received numerous honors -- from the Clinton White House, the U.N., Oxford and more. Still, he worries about retirement, saying his teacher's pension is too meager to provide a reasonable quality of life. Mr. Carter believes that in the current economic and political environment -- with public employee pensions under attack -- teachers need to become less passive and more militant.
Barbara Whitcomb died on her 40th birthday, of an accidental overdose of a narcotic prescribed for her kidney stones. But a short time after her collapse in the middle of the night, Barbara's heart was beating again --thanks to quick action by her husband and to the rapid response of Lewes, DE EMT Charlene Friday. Barbara says she owes her life to her husband, Friday and the ambulance squad that got her to the hospital in time. Barbara and Charlene recently discussed the incident -- and Charlene said she believes the pensions firefighters, EMTs and other emergency personnel receive aren't nearly enough to reward them for the services they provide the community.
Three hundred to four hundred times a year, Charlene Friday puts her life and family on hold to respond to emergency calls in Lewes, DE. For the past 10 years, she's been a volunteer EMT for the Lewes squad, which is staffed almost entirely by volunteers and financed with donated funds. Charlene has saved more than one life and has been in some dangerous situations -- and she's proud of making a difference in her community. She is grateful that her fire hall pays the necessary amount each year for Charlene and other active volunteers to be covered by the state pension plan. And she believes that firefighter and emergency responders everywhere deserve a level of financial security in retirement in exchange for work they do -- and the dangers they face -- to serve their communities.
Bobby L. Deal is Assistant Chief, Patrol Division Zone 3, for the Office of the Sheriff in the Consolidated City of Jacksonville, FL.
The citizens of Fairfax County, VA never see Lisa Williams when she's on the job, but the work she does is vital to their safety. Lisa works for the county police, processing criminal arrests and collaborating with other law enforcement agencies to keep criminal files complete and up to date, so when officers stop a motorist or respond to a call, they'll know what to expect and who they're confronting – a respectable citizen, a gang member, a repeat offender, a gun carrier or worse. Lisa says her pension and her health benefits are what keep her on the job.