NPEA Conferences - Big Value!

Dennis Gatlin recently retired from the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association and reflects on his long association with NPEA.

I’m reminded of Glen Campbell’s classic hit By the Time I Get To Phoenix because by the time you have read this, I’ll be retired, though not to Arizona.

Trips down memory lane are worth the mileage. As I look in the rear view mirror of my pension education career, the National Pension Education Association (along with its partner, InFRE) was the "on ramp" to the open road for these past 28 years. It has also been a training track for my team's knowledge and skills development.

So, what has NPEA meant to me, my team of educators and retirement system? And, how might you benefit from similar experiences?

Through 18 NPEA conferences attended, starting a generation ago at the 1989 St. Paul, MN conference, there are definite takeaways:

  • Up-to-date public pension policy information.
  • Access to the best thought leaders in the public pension industry, communications, and education.
  • The ability to network with top public pension education leaders nationally.
  • Comprehensive and comparative methods used in large and small public plans nationally.
  • The honor of presenting at two of these conferences.

Public Pension Policy Information. NPEA conference agendas include the latest information and research about nationally trending pension policy issues. Conference agendas are known for speakers like pension lobbyist Thomas Lussier, pension attorney Robert Klausner, and Boston University Center for Retirement Research Director Alicia Munnell.

Thought Leaders. The array of communications, educational, and aging thought leaders has been stunning. In 2012, MIT AgeLab Director Joseph F Coughlin presented Retirement Education & Planning in Transition. He discussed the “AGNES” (Age Gain Now Empathy System) suit that simulates motor, visual, flexibility, dexterity and strength challenges of a person in their mid-70s. The session provided research-based insights into physical, intellectual, and socio-psychological impacts of the aging process.

Networking. The NPEA conference is a cornerstone venue for interaction with other public pension education leaders from across the country – all in a relaxed setting between sessions, during a meal, or in the hotel lounge. I had an amazing conversation with What Color Is Your Parachute? For Retirement author John Nelson, while riding a bus after the final conference dinner in Savannah, GA in 2006. Bonus point – I’ve netted countless lasting friendships from the NPEA conference.

Showcase Comprehensive and Comparative Methods. The NPEA conference distributes its System Roll Call booklet highlighting systems’ new programs, initiatives, strategies, and legislative changes. The booklet is a very handy reference resource back home – a system may have already solved the problem I face.

Presenting At The Conference. NPEA looks to its conference attendees to present breakout sessions at future conferences. During a break at the 2007 Santa Fe conference, I proposed an idea to another attendee, and two years later I presented a breakout session in St. Petersburg Beach, titled Clinically Speaking: What We Can Learn From The Counseling Field?

Simply, the annual National Pension Education Association conference is a “must attend” professional development investment that no system should pass up. Retirement system educators will be enriched with knowledge and friendships well beyond a simple conference experience.

Stepping into retirement is not a “rear view mirror” experience. It’s a new “green light” on life’s highway that allows each of us as retirement educators to continue the drive to new successes. In my retirement preparation I tried to be a good student of my own teaching. And, I have the National Pension Education Association to thank for so much.


Contact Dennis Gatlin at [email protected] or 970.682.0742.


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