By Oregon State Treasurer 
National organization taps Oregon Treasurer as ‘Elected Official of the Year’
Treasurer Wheeler recognized for efforts to improve retirement savings options
Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler was recognized today as the Elected Official of the Year by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), for his leadership efforts to bolster retirement saving in Oregon and nationally.
Wheeler says the poor level of retirement savings in America poses a generational crisis that threatens to plunge seniors into poverty, disrupt entire families and impact the overall economy. And he is calling on financial leaders in government and the private sector to collaborate and craft new professionally managed options to help increase savings.
He helped advocate for successful legislation in Oregon in 2013 that created a State Retirement Savings Task Force, which he will chair. The panel will consider trends, current laws and savings options — and could recommend reforms to the 2015 assembly.
Also in 2013, Wheeler convened a bipartisan roundtable in New York consisting of national labor organization representatives, financial industry leaders and State Treasurers. Among the topics: Should new options be available for the roughly half of workers who today have no retirement saving options through their employers.
“In Oregon and across the nation, a lack of sufficient retirement savings threatens family security and quality of life, and could place an increasingly heavy burden on social safety net programs,” Treasurer Wheeler said. “Time is not our ally.”
According to NCPERS, the annual award is given to elected officials at the federal and state levels who distinguish themselves by advancing public policy discussions on pensions and retirement security for working Americans. Last year’s recipient was U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Other past recipients include U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), U.S. Representative Jim McCrery (R-LA), U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek (D-FL).
The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College says 53 percent of American households are “at risk” of not having saved enough to maintain their living standards. According to a 2013 survey by AARP Oregon, more than half Oregonians between the ages of 45 and 64 do not have retirement savings through an employer, and one in six Oregonians has less than $5,000 in retirement savings.
The National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems is a nonprofit that represents more than 550 funds throughout the United States and Canada. The network of represented trustees, administrators, public officials and investment professionals collectively manage approximately $3.7 trillion in pension assets held in trust for about 21 million public employees and retirees — including firefighters, law enforcement officers, teachers, and other public servants.
The Oregon State Treasury protects public assets and saves Oregonians money through its investment, banking, and debt management functions. State investment policies are overseen by the Oregon Investment Council. The State Treasury also promotes public outreach and education to help Oregonians learn strategies to save money, invest for college and make smart financial choices.