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Hill sees up side of market volatility

Oregon Treasurer Jim Hill isn't fazed by a week of volatile activityon the stock market. It just gives him more incentive to encourage economicsecurity.

His constitutional responsibility is the investment of the state's moneyand retirement funds, but he is using his position to make people thinkabout their own responsibilities.

I'm trying to give the message that financial security is up toyou, he said Monday, during a stop in Medford. The world ofretirement plans is changing. People don't spend a career with a big companyand retire on its plan. That's all changed.

People now switch jobs and careers _ or are downsized into change. Atbest, they are rolling over self-directed individual retirement plans.

A study by a state Retirement Task Force disclosed that fewer than halfof Oregonians are saving for retirement in an employer-sponsored fund.

Meanwhile, Oregonians suffered a record 16,000 personal bankruptcieslast year and have the nation's fourth-largest consumer debt. Although theeconomy is booming, many new jobs are part-time and offer no benefits.

The cost of a college degree at Oregon's public universities has climbed80 percent since 1990, Hill said.

The average college graduate is graduating with $26,000 in debtfrom college loans, he said.

Hill has backed several programs to help families meet college costs.Included are the Baccalaureate Bond Program and prepaid tuition credits.

He also encourages people to invest for the future.

The main reason people don't invest is that they are afraid oflosing money, he said. But a lot of people are being left behindin this market.

The recent 540-point plunge in the stock market did not scare away investors,Hill said, but was a buying opportunity for many small investors.

The state's not running scared.

Forty percent of the pension money in the Public Employee RetirementFund is being invested in the U.S. stock market with 10 percent in foreignsecurities. Another 20 percent is in bonds, 20 percent is in alternativeinvestments and 7 percent in real estate.

PERS, Hill added, is invested for the long term, a 60-year horizon, figuringpeople have a 30-year working career and 30 years of retirement.

Hill, who said the solutions start with educated kids, praised the involvementof banks in schools.

If we can get young people in the habit of saving when time ison their side, they'll be providing for their own retirement, he said.It's a `pay me now or pay me later' situation.

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