Why the Retirement Fund Was Created
Attracting—and Keeping—the Best and the Brightest
Embodying the Y Movement
A Moral Imperative
Y Focus and Mission
Founded in London, England in 1844 by George Williams, the YMCA began as an evangelical movement to provide young men recently arrived in the city to seek work with the opportunity for bible study and prayer as an alternative to life on the streets.
Today, the Y achieves its mission through a wide variety of educational, career development, childcare, youth empowerment, and health and wellness programs that help individuals and communities achieve their full potential.
Not a Job but a Vocation
From the beginning, the backbone of the Y has been its people—the employees, volunteers, and members— who are vital to the success of the programs and services that fulfill the Y’s Mission.
For these dedicated, mission-driven employees, working at the Y is not just a job—it’s a vocation. Staff members give generously of their time, energy, and creativity. They’ve made a commitment to the Y because they believe in transforming people’s lives and serving their communities through their Y’s programs and services.
Y officers recognized the importance of retirement benefits to the success of the Movement in 1909 and mandated the creation of a retirement fund in 1911. The Fund was established in 1921.
The Y Movement recognized the importance of retirement benefits to building and retaining a dedicated workforce as early as the first decade of the 20th century.
At the Employed Officers Conference of 1909, participants identified the devastatingly high turnover rate among Y employees as a significant challenge to the success of the Movement.
In response, the 1911 Commission mandated the creation of a retirement fund to encourage the retention of Y employees.
After several years of planning and fundraising, the YMCA Retirement Fund was established in 1921 with initial capital of $4 million.
A Just Reward for a Career of Service
The retirement annuity the YMCA Retirement Fund provides is a tangible acknowledgement of Y employees’ exemplary contributions to the Movement. The benefits the Fund provides have made it possible for Y employees with modest incomes to answer the organization’s call to a lifetime of service with the confidence of knowing that a comfortable and dignified retirement awaits them.
Without these benefits, many long-time employees would be unable to spend their careers at the Y and would eventually have to seek more remunerative, but potentially less meaningful, work elsewhere. Alternatively, if the employees remained with the Y, they would be likely to face financial problems in retirement.
Y retirement benefits are essential to attracting and retaining life-long, dedicated Y employees. According to a 2011 survey of 620 Y CEOs across the country, 82% considered the Fund important to recruitment at their Ys while 91% described it as important to employee retention.
In fact, the YMCA Retirement Fund provides a distinct competitive advantage in helping Ys to attract what one Fund trustee describes as the “best, brightest, and most committed.”
“The retirement benefit helps to recruit great employees and retain them, and also gives security—long term security—to the women and men who dedicate their lives of service to the YMCA,” says Sandy Berlin Walker, President and CEO, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati.
Cornerstone of the Movement
Being able to recruit and retain dedicated staff isn’t just a point of pride for the Y—it’s essential to the Movement and its mission. The talent, commitment, and continuity of employees is key to the successful delivery of the Y’s programs and services and has a direct impact and influence on the individuals and communities the organization reaches.
By offering long-term financial security, dignity, and recognition to Y employees, and helping to attract and retain them, the YMCA Retirement Fund has been viewed as the cornerstone of the Y Movement.
The YMCA Retirement Fund empowers Y employees to achieve economic security, resulting in loyalty to the Y Movement.
The YMCA Retirement Fund not only supports the Y Movement—it lives it. By empowering employees to achieve long-term economic security, the Fund embodies the Y’s commitment to fostering the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities.
The Fund shares the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility and is guided by the principles of security, integrity, and enduring value. Fund executives work for the benefit of Y constituents by being:
- Disciplined long-term investors
- Trustworthy and skilled fiduciaries
- Timely, transparent and effective communicators
These values and principles are mirrored in the talent and dedication of the 16 men and women who serve as the Fund’s Trustees, all of whom have a long-time association with the Y as volunteers or employed officers and view their participation on the Board of Trustees as part of the tradition of giving back to the Movement. All are deeply committed to the Y Mission and to ensuring that the Fund operates in the best interests of the Y and Fund participants.
The benefits the Fund provides are also a hallmark of being a responsible employer. Providing benefits through the YMCA Retirement Fund is more than a way of recognizing employees for their years of service to the Y and their communities. The benefits the Fund provides are also a hallmark of being a responsible employer. They help ensure that all staff are fairly compensated and have the resources they need to ensure their financial future.
Big Commitment, Modest Incomes
The vast majority of Y employees earn less than $50,000 a year, and 56% earn less than $25,000. From 2002 to 2011, 1,159 staff retired from the Y after 25 or more years of service. Of those, 48% worked their entire career at just one Y and their average final year’s salary was $45,400.
Most financial planners estimate that people need approximately 75% to 85% of their final year’s salary to maintain their standard of living in retirement. With an average salary of $27,000, and Social Security not likely to fill the gap between what retirees will actually have and what they will need, most Fund participants would be hard-pressed to set aside enough during their working years to live comfortably in retirement. What makes the difference for these dedicated employees is the level of contribution that most Ys make to the Fund on behalf of their employees.
“Without the Retirement Fund,” notes Sandy Berlin Walker, “employees might have to make tougher choices, and wouldn’t be able to stay with the YMCA as long and provide the continuity of service we really hope for in all our YMCAs.”
Delivering on the Y Values
By providing Y employees with the resources they need to secure their financial future, the YMCA Retirement Fund not only demonstrates the value it places on the people who serve the organization but supports the original and ongoing mission of the Movement.