There are many routes to making a million dollars, but the surest and safest one may be to get a good government job in Kansas, stick with it, and let KPERS do the rest.

KPERS is shorthand for Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, the program administered on behalf of state and local public employees, including those employed by school districts.

An Open Records request by the Kansas Policy Institute produced some interesting results, including record-setting KPERS payouts in 2017 of $1.64 billion.  

The number of KPERS ‘millionaires’ also set a new record. KPI defines “millionaires” as those retirees who are expected to receive more than $1 million in pension benefits over the first 20 years of retirement. There are now 2,334 active millionaires, 327 more than last year. 

Given that pensions are paid as long as the retiree lives, the total benefit received could be considerably more–or possibly less–than the projected 20-year figure.

Some retirees opt for a partial lump sum payout in their first year of retirement with reduced monthly benefits thereafter.  A veteran of the Derby school district walked away with this year’s top prize, a cool $610,791.

Some school teachers may be underpaid, but their bosses are not, especially by Kansas standards. Educators hold the top four positions on the KPERS payout list. One Blue Valley retiree, now well employed elsewhere, is looking at a $4.3 million payout over the next 20 years. Each of the top four is scheduled to receive more than $2.7 million over the next 20 years.

These KPERS millionaires, at least if they reside in Kansas, get one more benefit that most Kansas workers do not. They do not pay state income tax on their withdrawals, this in spite of the fact that the great part of their pension benefits comes from employer–i.e. taxpayer–contributions and market earnings.

It is all well and good that government workers have a retirement plan, but no discussion of public sector salaries makes sense without factoring the KPERS bounty in.

 

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