Argus pair share long-service wisdom
Gary Weller is approaching the end of his working days and is looking forward to a comfortable retirement — but he’s concerned about many fellow Bermudians who face a struggle in their “golden years”.
Mr Weller counts himself fortunate to work for Argus Group Holdings Ltd, a company which, as a pension provider, has long appreciated the value of putting money away for retirement.
From early in his 40-year career with the insurer — he started work at Argus on October 5, 1977 — he has had a private pension plan.
“That pension plan’s looking kind of healthy now and I’m considering early retirement,” Mr Weller, assistant vice-president, customer relations at Argus, said.
“However, something that deeply concerns me is the retirement savings of our entire community. I see so many people, who even with the mandatory pension plan, did not have sufficient time to save enough money to retire comfortably,” Mr Weller said.
“The mandatory pension plan came into effect 18 years ago and then 75 per cent of the working population were getting a private pension plan for the first time.
“Argus was selling pension plans in the 1960s and 1970s, but most people were not interested because they didn’t want to see any deduction from their take-home pay. Pensions cost a lot less in the past, but now people are living longer, so they need more money saved up because it has to last longer.”
Mr Weller said that many seniors were struggling financially. The Government’s Contributory Pension Plan had not been designed to be the sole source of income for people facing two decades or more of retirement. Its maximum benefit provides seniors with about $1,500 a month, effectively a useful supplement to a private pension income, he said.
While Mr Weller is truly a veteran of Argus, there is at least one member of staff who has been there longer, namely Janet “Pinky” Todd.
Ms Todd, 63, joined the company on July 10, 1972, immediately after graduating from high school. Her role was initially in administration for Bermuda Life. Over the years her technology talents were recognised and she joined the front line of the computer revolution in Bermuda business.
By the age of 21, she was in charge of a team of 19 people, comprising six male computer operators and 13 female key-punch operators at Data Communications Ltd, which had been formed when Argus’s internal computer department, Argus Management Services, merged with Abacus Management Services, a subsidiary of Purvis Ltd.
She worked with the company’s first mainframe computer, “which filled a large room” and she recalls dealing with 3,600-foot magnetic tapes and reams of carbon paper. She has seen the transition to a server-based IT system, desktop computers, the internet and mobile, digital technology. Today she is a systems support analyst.
Having the opportunity to expand her knowledge in the fast-changing world of IT is one of the things that has allowed her to remain happy to stay at Argus.
“Argus is keen on learning and personal development and I believe in lifelong learning,” Ms Todd said. “I like the way that IT is always evolving and I’ve had the chance to develop with it from the age of 17 to 63.”
Very few people work for 46 years for the same company and Ms Todd had some advice for job-hopping young people.
“Youngsters nowadays are all about the money — but at the end of the day, it’s not about what you make, it’s about what you do with what you make,” she said.
“At Argus, it’s a real family atmosphere. It’s a place where you feel valued and cared about. I like to do many things in the community, with my church and at the Seniors Golden Hour Club, for example, and Argus gives me time to do that.
“And if you need time to care for a loved one who is not well, they will work with you to make sure you can do what you need to do.”
Mr Weller agreed with her sentiments. “The people at Argus are like my second family,” he said. “We’ve seen it grow from 50 people to about 150 in Bermuda and so the family has got bigger.”
One of the biggest changes Mr Weller has seen during his time at Argus has been in healthcare benefits, which have expanded dramatically to include overseas care. He said that better treatment has helped to expand lifespans, despite a worsening of general health.
“The average health of resident has changed. We are paying out way more in health benefits,” Mr Weller said.
“There are many people with chronic conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes, often associated with lifestyle. As a result our spending per capita on healthcare is as high as the first or second highest in the OECD.”
Argus is working to promote healthier lifestyles and offers wellness plans to clients. “We are seeing positive results, but we need more of the community to get on board,” he said.
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