Q&A: Judy Miller

By Norman Levinrad • October 16, 2017 • 0 Comments
I recently caught up with Judy Miller, ACOPA’s former Executive Director. Here are Judy’s reflections on her plans for retirement, ACOPA, the state of the industry and more.

Judy, your retirement has been announced. What are your retirement plans? Are there “bucket list” things you’re planning to do?

No bucket list for me. We expect to get our bikes (Schwinn variety) fixed up so we can ride on the Pinellas Trail. Probably refresh our golf game. Probably visit a few more national parks at some point. But mostly I look forward to being immersed in everyday life, putzing around, taking care of some of the projects I’ve been wanting to take on.

You’ve been a part of ACOPA since the beginning. How do you assess our growth and accomplishments? What do you see as our future challenges?

It’s been an amazing journey. We have not grown membership-wise, in fact, shrunk a little, and growing membership will be one of the challenges ACOPA faces going forward. But we have done good work, whether responding to proposed regs, proposed ASOPs or proposed legislation on behalf of our membership, and that will continue. ACOPA definitely has its own identity now. I am really pleased with the leadership that is in place and that will be in place next year. We have a good mix of people on the Leadership Council. I am confident ACOPA will continue to focus on speaking for our membership, with the health of the overall system always in mind.

You’ve worked in the private sector, in government and for ASPPA/ACOPA, so you’ve seen things from every side. How do you assess the health of our private retirement system? 

The private retirement system has never been better. In spite of the story line pushed by some people who claim it has failed, it is actually helping more people than ever benefitted in the past. There is a coverage gap, though, and we need to support approaches to expanding the private system to the types of jobs that just don’t have benefits now. And we should be encouraging employers to think about employees’ benefits, not just tax savings. (That falls under “future challenges.”)

Do you think that tax reform can ever happen? And if so, do you think the current incentives in the system will remain? 

I think it will happen, though doubt this Congress will do more than some tax cuts, if anything at all. When it happens, we could see some of the elective deferral become Roth-only, like in the Camp proposal. Maybe a temporary freeze on limits. And of course, tax cuts can make the incentives less attractive. But there are key people in Congress who appreciate the importance of the incentives and want to maintain them. I am optimistic it won’t be destructive as long as ARA keeps very busy working to make it turn out that way. 

Be honest: if you were a young person today entering the actuarial profession, would you get into pensions or some other area like insurance or health?

This is a tough question. I have thought a lot about it and concluded I would want to get into pensions again. Working in the life or casualty insurance industry just doesn’t appeal to me. I really like working in the employee benefits area – dealing with employers, especially smaller businesses, and their employees. Maybe health could provide similar consulting opportunities, but I don’t think so. It’s true the number of large plans are shrinking, but small plans are fairly stable. Plus, the number of new EAs is going down, so odds are good it would turn out to be a good decision (again) for me.