Pennsylvania’s ‘Fluke’ Law Doesn’t Include Cost-of-Living Adjustments for More Than 70,000 Retired Public Employees

Pennsylvania Law

Pennsylvania’s ‘Fluke’ Law Doesn’t Include Cost-of-Living Adjustments for More Than 70,000 Retired Public Employees

Public employees who retired in Pennsylvania before 2001 may not have the stable pension they thought they would. An accident in Pennsylvania law has prevented nearly 70,000 public employees from receiving cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) in their annual pensions. With the inflation of the last 23 years, it seems like a gross oversight that these residents are now paying.

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Jacqualyn James, an 88-year-old retired teacher, illustrates the point. For 30 years, she taught high school students in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. She contributed regularly to her pension, the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). “I expected it to last my whole life,” she told NBC News.

While her $25,000-a-year pension has stretched, it’s now worth only half of what it was when she retired in 1998. James and 70,000 other retired public employees have not received a COLA in their monthly payments for more more than 20 years.

Each dollar in these retirees’ pensions is worth the same nominal amount as the year they retired. For James, that means every dollar he was promised when he retired is worth about 51 cents today. Because many public school teachers, like James, don’t have access to Social Security, an issue we won’t delve too deeply into here, the financial strain becomes even more pressing.

In 2001, several provisions were made under the passage of Act 9, which increased pension benefits for public employees. The problem is that these provisions did not include anyone who retired earlier. So these retirees now face significant financial hardship.

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The Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees (PASR) has advocated for these retirees and continues to do so. In January 2024, the Pennsylvania House passed HB 1416, which would have provided a COLA of 15 to 25% for those who retired before July 1, 2001. However, the PA Senate did not act on the bill.

PASR continues to engage the public and Pennsylvania legislators to pass this bill so that all affected retirees can receive the COLA they deserve. They have stated that an increasing number of legislators are expressing support for the draft law.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that a COLA, in the form of HB 1416, will take effect this year,” PASR posted on their website.

While policy changes certainly need to be made to ensure adequate pension arrangements, this unfortunate turn of events demonstrates the importance of a diversified retirement plan. Are there other oversights that could happen in the future that could affect your retirement accounts or pensions? It’s hard to know until the time comes.

One thing you can do, however, is make sure you have the right financial advisor on your team to guide you toward the retirement and financial future you want. Take the steps you can to ensure financial stability in your retirement.

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This article Pennsylvania ‘Fluke’ Law Doesn’t Include Cost-of-Living Adjustments for Over 70,000 Retired Public Employees originally appeared on

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