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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Retired teachers help peers navigate retirement

Retired teachers Les Francis and his wife, Pam, relax in the Whitworth Building on March 2, 2016. They and some of their retired teacher friends are putting on a seminar April 16 about “how to maximize your retirement.” They don’t want other people to have the surprises and frustrations they have encountered. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The reality of retirement is far from paradise, so says a group of retired teachers who want to school area educators and support staff, everyone from janitors and cooks to bus drivers, by having a free retirement conference with state and local experts next month.

“When you retire you think you’re going fishing or golfing,” said Les Francis, vice president of the Spokane Area Retired Educators Association. “But there is a lack of bliss or paradise. It’s not that way. You inherit a whole set of problems you never thought of before.”

The association has about 1,000 members, of which 300 are active. It polled members last year and found the top concerns about retirement fell into the categories of health needs, legal issues such as wills and trusts, finances, insurance and life planning and scams.

The Help With Maximizing Your Retirement conference on April 16 at West Valley High School brings experts on all things retirement together. The free event is presented by the Spokane Area Retired Educators Association and is for anyone who works or has worked for a public school district in Washington.

“We are trying to get young people out and start planning at an early age,” said Pam Francis, Les’ wife who is a district representative for the Washington State School Retirees’ Association. “We want people to go away with questions. We’ve set up an avenue so they can be more prepared.”

The highlight of the day is a presentation by Stacy Rundle, of the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems, who will talk about the state’s public school employee retirement plan

Larry Cade of the Public Employees Benefits Bureau will discuss all the subsidized insurance benefits available to school district retirees.

Retired educators Les and Pam Francis came up with the idea for the retirement conference after they kept hearing stories of peers “falling through the cracks”– not having adequate insurance and finances or missing important deadlines to sign up for programs.

Brad Beal and his wife, Kathy, both retired teachers in local districts, are helping organize the conference. They stressed that retirement isn’t just about enjoying life. They have had to deal with sick and dying parents, Brad’s sister who has multiple sclerosis and an adult child that has moved into their basement with a spouse and children.

“All of this is huge for those of us in the sandwich generation,” Brad Beal said, referring to people who simultaneously take care of their parents and their children.

Local health experts include nurses and Lynn Kimball, executive director of Aging and Long Term Care in Eastern Washington, and Kathy Dugan, the local coordinator for the Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors, which helps people navigate Medicare, prescription drug plans and other health insurance issues.

Senior law attorneys Karen and Dick Sayre will talk about legal issues while Bill Smith of Apex Financial Group will do a presentation on financial planning, including preparing taxes. There are also insurance representatives and professionals from the police department, Better Business Bureau and adult protective services discussing senior scams and fraud.

Educators also wanted to know more about volunteer and substitute opportunities.

“The majority of people really need to come to this,” Beal said.