One year ago this month we suddenly left our offices and began working remotely from our homes. It’s incredible to think that 12 months later we are still here serving you virtually.
I certainly don’t need to tell you what life has been like since March 2020. The harsh reality of COVID-19 has been profound.
But I always say that we’re judged by how we meet challenges, and our steady, determined efforts over the past year have shown that we have not missed a beat in our mission to deliver the benefits you have earned and help you secure your financial future.
Like so many other organizations, we were forced to call a halt to in-person meetings when the pandemic hit and move the thousands of conversations we have monthly with our members to a virtual world. We shut down public access to our Sacramento headquarters and closed the eight regional offices we operate around the state. Compelled to shut some doors, however, we found that new ones opened.
Here are some of the important ways we’ve been able to meet our obligations to you:
- Retiring online: Though we can’t meet one on one, our website is ready whenever you’re ready to retire. More than 70% of retirement applications are now being submitted online through our myCalPERS system. Will this be the year you make the leap? Take a look at this CalPERS Quick Tip on how to begin the process online.
- Learning about your benefits: We typically host several CalPERS Benefits Education Events around the state every year. We had to do something different in 2020. We held two virtual events with over 15,000 class attendees. The success was evident across the board, with a customer satisfaction rating of 98%.
Attending one of our benefits education events is a great way to learn about your benefits and prepare for retirement, no matter how far in the future that is or what stage of your public service career you’re in. The earlier you get informed, the better prepared you’ll be. Ready to better understand your options? Our next virtual event is coming up on March 24-25. You can get more information here.
- Paying electronically: Beginning in April 2020, members could safely and securely make electronic payments through a new online payment system. By the end of last month, over 11,000 members had made over $11 million in payments for their health coverage, service credit purchases, and benefit overpayments. Learn more about it here.
- Taking the time to talk: Since March of last year, our Customer Contact Center has received more than 900,000 calls. And in place of meeting with our members at our regional offices, we completed 45,000 virtual counseling appointments in 2020, the first year we have offered this service. Need to schedule an appointment? Here’s where to begin.
- Emailing the news: We knew the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic required us to more frequently reach out to you with the latest updates and information. Last May we launched an email newsletter that we send to members each month. We hope you like it and always welcome your feedback.
The Outlook for 2021
You can count on us to keep you regularly informed, especially about the comprehensive review we’re currently conducting of our investment portfolio and the benefits we project to owe years into the future. This analysis, which we do every four years, will determine where we invest the CalPERS fund—what percentage to devote to, say, public stocks or bonds or private equity. It will also determine what we think those investments will earn over the long term.
These figures will be used to calculate the amount that you and your employer contribute toward your retirement benefits. You can learn more about this review process on our website, and you can follow the discussion by watching our board meetings.
I’m hopeful that at some point in 2021, we’ll head back to the office. Our regional offices will reopen, and many of our face-to-face meetings will resume. We’ll finally get the chance to greet you in-person again. Like you, I can’t wait.
This post was updated 3/9/21.