Each year, 5,000 trustees, administrators and plan advisors gather to share ideas and learn from each other. While many come from opposite ends of the bargaining table, the camaraderie is palpable. I continue to get energized and inspired after attending the Annual Employee Benefits Conference each year.
In talking with attendees, some common themes emerged as top takeaways. While I’ve come to expect the astonishment that new trustees experience when discovering the extent of their fiduciary responsibilities, I learned of several other unexpected “aha” moments with the 65th Annual Employee Benefits Conference.
- A focus on the importance of mental health. President and Chair of the Foundation Gene Price set the tone, sharing a personal story of this issue that has deeply affected him, and he implored all of us to drop social pretense and find solutions to help those struggling with mental health issues. Our keynoter, Sangu Delle ran with this theme, sharing his own struggles with depression.
- “What I appreciated the most was when I went to the withdrawal liability course thinking it was about something totally different than what it was, but the moderator made the course so interesting, I stayed. Not only did I stay, but I learned what withdrawal liability really was, and was able to convey it, comprehensively, to my colleagues. It was awesome.”—Lady Y. Smith, Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System
- You think you know Social Security, but do you really? This eye-opening session separated fact from fiction, including who receives it (68% are retired workers), how many receive it (61.9 million total beneficiaries), how it fits in the federal spending pie (it’s the second largest piece of the federal spending budget) and more. Before you dismiss Social Security thinking it will be gone before you retire, know that the program has been adjusted and reformed to adapt to changing societal needs and demographics for the past 80 years.
- “The classes gave me the tools to ask the right questions as a trustee so we can move forward with changes to our plans.” —Shaun Coates, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters
- Overheard as we were waiting for the last shuttle: “I met a lot of great people.” “Peer-to-peer discussions and making connections was what I got out of it.” “I obtained new ideas and techniques from other funds.” “This was more than a ‘101’ conference—it offered more in-depth offerings.”
- Do you have poor posture? There’s an app for that. Dr. Daniel Kraft gave a rapid-fire review of what is happening in health care that will shape our future, from a cyber-enhanced t-shirt that allows a physician to see how those internal organs are holding up, to wearable devices that gently nudge us toward healthy behaviors.
- “The closing session by Dr. David Sobel gave me the personal tools to be more calm, collected and happy.” So next time your spouse forgets to tighten the lid of your water bottle and it ruins your iPhone, take a few breaths and realize that maybe what you need in this exact moment is to unplug from your phone.
Save the date for next year! Register now to attend the 66th Annual Employee Benefits Conference November 15-18, 2020 in Honolulu.
Stacy Van Alstyne
Communications Director at the International Foundation
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