Carrie Heffron, Office of Conservation
Margaret Corley, Senate Retirement Committee
Annie Smith, House Retirement Committee
As a young professional in state government, simply learning the ropes of your job can prove to be a daunting task in itself, let alone thinking about and preparing for the eventual destination of retirement. While LASERS does provide a defined benefit for life at retirement, it is important for younger members to understand that benefits can be modest. We recommend doing all that you can throughout your career to help put you in a better place financially by the time you sign your retirement papers with LASERS. Three LASERS members – Carrie Heffron, Petroleum Analyst with the Department of Natural Resources; Margaret Corley, Attorney at the Senate Retirement Committee; and Annie Smith, Attorney for the House Retirement Committee – are each in different stages of their young careers, but are managing their journeys to retirement as if they were seasoned employees. Here are their stories.
Carrie Heffron, originally from Phoenix, AZ, began her career as a Petroleum Analyst at the Office of Conservation (OC) in 2012. “I’ve always had a heart for the environment, so I knew I wanted to be in a career that allowed me to be outside occasionally, or at least work to protect it,” Heffron said. Her office regulates oil and gas wells in the state, from initial permitting to plugging and abandoning the wells. Her specific job is to review and approve drilling permits, manage financial aspects, and enforce the regulations of the state and manage implementation of new laws. She also reviews and answers questions regarding policy to ensure OC is enforcing regulations equally and efficiently across Louisiana. “To sum it up, we regulate the administrative processes of the oil and gas industry,” Heffron stated.
Heffron, a professional engineer, spoke with excitement when she talked about her job in communicating with all levels of state government when questions arise about conservation. “I work to collect information that the State needs, and then provide that to operators and the public alike. I interpret data and do my best to help the general public understand the technical terms and aspects, or I advise them on where to find what information they need. There are so many working parts in Conservation. I am just one of those pieces that helps regulate the oil and gas industry, and I’m proud to have that role,” Heffron said.
Margaret Corley, a native of Lafayette, LA, started with the Louisiana State Senate in 2010 when she was a student worker for Senator Elbert Guillory. In 2012, she moved full time to the Senate Retirement Committee and is now an Attorney in the Senate Retirement Committee. Corley says her job in the Legislature can be defined by three categories: preparing for session, during session, and the interim. Corley spends her days preparing for session by meeting with legislators to understand their reasons for seeking to change laws, grasping the ramifications from the possible changes, gathering all the information needed, and drafting the bills. During session consists of fielding and answering questions from state employees and working with legislators as bills progress in the legislative process. Interim days are a change of pace for Corley as she attends the board meetings for the 13 state and statewide retirement systems that Senator Peacock is a member of to understand the current issues of each.
Corley expressed her passion for being a part of the engine that makes state government work. “I am a firm believer in states’ rights. I feel that the work done at the state level has a direct effect on people immediately, as opposed to the trickle-down effect in federal government, and I like being a part of that,” she said.
Annie Smith, a native of Lake Charles, LA, is fairly new to state government. Smith began her position as an Attorney for the House Retirement Committee in March of 2016. Although new to the game, she picked up her responsibilities quickly. Smith likens her role in state government to the classic educational movie School House Rock: The Bill on Capitol Hill. Smith handles the mechanics and technical aspects of the legislative process. “My job is to draft the bill, make sure it accurately reflects the legislator’s intent, and confirm the bill is being correctly and properly amended as it progresses on the Senate and House floors.” She also serves as a resource to the legislature so they can communicate better with their constituents on the subject of retirement.
Since Smith previously worked for private law firms in Baton Rouge for a few years, she has been able to see the pros and cons of each side of work. She spoke about her enjoyment of now working in the public sector. “Being a civil servant means using your talents and skills to improve the quality of life for the citizens in the State of Louisiana. That is my ultimate goal. There’s really no point in working for the State if you don’t have that goal in mind,” Smith said.
Heffron, Corley, and Smith say that their jobs in state government surprised them, in a good way, and each have realized their respective careers is where they belong. “I thought working for the legislature would be more political. And I don’t really like politics. However, after talking to an attorney friend in the legislature and hearing about her job duties, I was instantly interested when a position became available with the House.” Smith said. Heffron stressed the importance for young professionals to build relationships with new and seasoned professionals in their respective fields. “Network! And never settle until you find what you love,” she said.
When it comes to preparing for their future retirement, each of the women share a similar view on retirement savings as a young professional in state government. All three expressed their commitment to contributing to a deferred compensation account offered by Empower Retirement. “No matter where you are in your career, take advantage of deferred comp,” Corley said. LASERS members in their 20s and 30s get the great benefit of having time on their side. The plan allows members to supplement their future LASERS retirement by saving and investing pre-tax dollars through a voluntary salary contribution, which can be as little as $10 per pay period. Investing early makes all the difference! An infographic on the LASERS website explains the details and benefits of the Deferred Compensation Plan.
The Deferred Compensation Plan is not all that these ladies partake in as a means for supplementing their future retirement benefits. Heffron, Corley, and Smith shared that they contribute to Roth IRAs, personal savings accounts, and simply live within their means. “Being fiscally responsible at our age will prepare us for an easier retirement,” Heffron said.
When asked to give advice for millennial age members in LASERS when it comes to retirement, Corley and Smith said that it is best to, at the very least, simply understand your LASERS benefit. “Meet with a financial planner, look at your spending habits, set goals for you and your family. LASERS is part of that picture. Even if you cannot afford extra savings right now, all of that information will help you make decisions to put you in a better place financially to meet your retirement goals one day,” Smith said. Perhaps the best perspective is thinking in terms of taking control. Smith advised, “saving for retirement is something you can control. That is the one thing you can do now to benefit your future. Start today.”