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The Value of Employment Security

In keynote, state treasurer Goldberg ’83 says people must come first.

Photograph by Vicki Sanders

As the retirement system faces uncertainty in years ahead, an increasing number of Americans are finding it difficult to save for retirement. On October 18, Boston College Law School hosted the Ninth Annual Conference on Employee Benefits and Social Insurance. It brought together an interdisciplinary cohort of scholars and practitioners to share their research on retirement security and healthcare reform. Sessions included talks on fiduciary law, current challenges for pension systems, and new ideas for policy updates.

The keynote speaker was Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg ’83. She was accompanied by Nick Favorito, executive director of the Massachusetts State Retirement Board, and David Lynch, executive director of the Defined Contribution Plans. They shared their insights on the innovative programs that Massachusetts has pursued to promote retirement security within the state.

Goldberg said her first goal when she took office in 2015 was to integrate all 13 programs in the Treasury and propel them towards a singular shared goal: to create economic security and stability for everyone in Massachusetts. She said she works with each department personally and all the teams work together in furtherance of the goal.

Each quarter, Goldberg holds an orientation event for new employees in the treasurer’s office, during which she asks them to peer out the windows on the twelfth floor at the horizon of the Commonwealth. Goldberg explains: “They don’t work for me. We work for everybody out there together. That’s why taking care of people in retirement is so important.”

One component of Massachusetts’ retirement security system is PRIM, Pension Reserves Investment Management Board. PRIM is a professional investment service for public employees that maximizes their return on investment while considering fair levels of risk. Although the PRIM plan is already one of the best across the nation, Goldberg said, she is pushing for improvements that ensure the benefits are reaching the people for whom they are intended.

A longtime advocate for equity, Goldberg said that when she became state treasurer, she set a goal that 25 to 30 percent of the treasury’s investments would be in companies owned by women or people of color. She is encouraging the legislature to allow for a larger pool of money to invest in such enterprises.

Another of Goldberg’s initiatives is improving financial literacy, particularly among the younger generation, which is struggling with high levels of debt. Financial literacy is a non-partisan issue, she said: “It impacts everybody. It impacts stability for the state. It impacts revenues.”

On another front, she said, she has reached more than 40,000 high school students in Massachusetts with her experiential learning program, Game of Life. In the simulation, students are given a name, job description, and salary, and are asked to navigate their life in this scenario. It has helped them, Goldberg said, to make smarter money decisions.

The day-long conference was organized by retirement security scholar Natalya Shnitser, BC Law’s David and Pamela Donohue Assistant Professor in business law.