Housekeeping job a stepping-stone to a better life for Burma refugee
2011 holiday schedule
Q&A: Set your regular payroll contributions to help
reach retirement dreams
Housekeeping job a stepping-stone to a better life for Burma refugee
Burma (officially the Union of Myanmar) is the largest
country in Southeast Asia, bordered by China and India to the north, Bangladesh
to the west and Thailand to the east, with the Andaman Sea defining its
It is a land filled with Buddhist ruins, lush rice fields,
golden pagodas and, for much of the past century, human misery.
For centuries, the country was ruled by kings, and in the
19th century, it was conquered and turned into a British colony. The fragile
democracy that emerged upon its independence in 1948 was crushed by an army
coup in 1962, the same year Nihlel Tial was born.
For the next 26 years, the Burma Socialist Programme Party
held power by brutally crushing all opposition. But the slaying of a student in
1988 led to mass demonstrations on Aug. 8 – known as “8-8-88” in which
hundreds of thousands of protesters marched, demanding that the military
government be replaced by an elected civilian government. In response, soldiers
fired on the crowds, killing thousands.
That same year, Tial graduated from
Rangoon University and started work as a high school chemistry teacher. Two
years later, she married a fellow teacher who was a political activist with the
Chin League Party, the reform group that the military junta derecognized
By 1997, his continued political activism forced Tial’s
husband to flee to India to apply for political asylum. A year later, Tial
joined him there with their three daughters and son.
Tial’s husband was not granted political asylum in the
United States until nine years later. He arrived ahead of his family to figure
out where they should settle. He searched the Internet, Tial said, and traveled
from Seattle to San Diego to see the possibilities for himself.
In the end, he settled on Chapel Hill, Tial said, because
his Internet research showed that it was not too big, the schools were very
good and there was free bus service – an important consideration for a
family without a car.
They arrived here as a family in February 2006. Everyone
except Tial, a former high school chemistry teacher, is now a student.
This fall, her husband will begin his final year as an
electrical engineering student at N.C. State. Their eldest daughter is a
student at Durham Tech, and the other two daughters are students at East Chapel
Hill High School. Their son is a seventh grader at Phillips
For now, Tial is the family’s sole
breadwinner as a housekeeper at
It is a job she values dearly and does well – so well
that students nominated her for a 2010 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service
More than 80 students from the Joyner and Connor residence
hall communities, five resident advisers, one young alumnus and a former Massey
winner (also a housekeeper who emigrated from Burma) saw in Tial the same
qualities meriting recognition: hard work, devotion and the kind of human warmth
that can be spread with a simple smile.
She is more grateful for her job than any of the students
could ever know, but it is only a stepping-stone on her long, steep climb to a
When Tial was the age of her oldest daughter, she went off to
Rangoon University to study chemistry so she could become a teacher.
Chancellor Holden Thorp pointed out to Tial that they had
something in common. When he called her this spring to tell her she had won a
Massey, he pointed out that he, too, had once been a chemistry teacher.
One day soon, after Tial’s husband finishes college and gets
a job, it will be her turn to return to college – no longer as the family
breadwinner, but as a student.
Even though she has learned English well enough to speak and
understand it, it continues to be a struggle. That is why she is thinking of
pursuing accounting where the language used is primarily numbers.
It will not be easy. But in this country, she knows it will
The University’s holiday schedule for 2011 is included below
(with the schedule for 2010):
New Year’s Day
December 31, 2010 *
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday
New Year’s Eve
* Next year, the New Year’s Day holiday will be celebrated
on Dec. 31, 2010, because Jan. 1, 2011, falls on a Saturday. The holiday
schedule and additional policy links are available online at
Q & A
Set your regular payroll contributions to help reach retirement dreams
The risks tied to investing, as the stock market collapse of
2008 demonstrated, are high and can prove to be costly. But there is another
very real risk that currently affects a majority of University employees:
failing to invest for retirement to supplement Social Security income and
Of the 12,638 permanent employees who are eligible to enroll
in supplemental retirement plans, only 2,278 (18 percent) are enrolled in
403(b) plans offered by the University’s two vendors, Fidelity Investments and
Another 1,014 employees (8 percent) participate in the
401(k) plan sponsored by the State of North Carolina, and
650 (5 percent) take part in the North Carolina 457(b) Deferred Compensation
That leaves 8,696 eligible employees – nearly 69
percent – who are not enrolled in any employer-based supplemental
retirement program. (A 403(b) account is similar to a 401(k) except that it is
offered only to employees of nonprofit, civil and educational institutions.)
Recently, the University Gazette interviewed Louise Munn
with TIAA-CREF and Katie Maxwell with Fidelity Investments to learn more about
the risks associated with the stock market – and the potential cost of
Why should public employees who already have
plans participate in such funds?
Munn: Most people need to replace 80 percent or more of
their final salary in order to maintain their standard of living in retirement.
That income typically comes from three sources – defined benefit plans,
Social Security and personal savings, such as a 403(b) plan.
Defined benefit plans and Social Security typically fall
short of the amount needed to maintain a person’s current lifestyle. Saving in
a 403(b) can be pivotal to meeting those retirement income needs.
Why is it smart to begin saving
for retirement when you
Maxwell: The reason to start early is simple: The more time
you have to save, the more time your money has to grow. By investing a little
bit over time, you benefit from the power of compounding, and starting just 10
years earlier can make a huge difference.
Despite the logic, sometimes saving for retirement in the
earlier stages of life can be hard since many are struggling with more
immediate financial demands such as paying off college debt, saving for a first
home or starting a family.
What lessons did the 2008 collapse of the stock market –
and its significant
recovery since – teach investors about the hazards of
trying to time the market?
Munn: If you moved out of stocks during the fall of 2008 you
could have avoided most of the market losses. However, you also would have
risked missing all or most of the run-up since March 2009 if you didn’t get
back in at the right time.
The lesson is that it’s difficult to be right twice. A long-term
investment strategy that is based on your time horizon, circumstances and goals
will help optimize investment outcomes
What is an investment strategy?
Maxwell: It is an investor’s plan to guide and manage
investment selections that will help the person reach his or her savings goals.
Factors to consider in an investment strategy include things like when to start
saving, how much to invest, where to invest and how to change your asset
allocation as you get older.
No single investment plan is right for everyone. It’s
important that your investment mix – the percentage of stocks, bonds and
short-term investments in your portfolio – is appropriate for your age,
risk tolerance and financial situation.
What do clients need to know about their Tolerance
when formulating an investment strategy?
Munn: Consider seeking guidance from an objective,
non-commissioned adviser such as a retirement consultant to help you create a
diversified portfolio based on your risk tolerance and time horizon to
Schedule additional meetings if you experience any life
changes – getting married, buying a home, having a child, etc. And since
investments will fluctuate with the market, meet with your consultant annually
to review whether your investments are still allocated as you intended.
How does making an automatic contribution each month
your paycheck work to your advantage over time?
Maxwell: First, it helps create discipline. By making your
retirement contributions something that occurs automatically, you’ll be saving
a set amount on a set schedule. This helps avoid the temptation of using the
money for other needs.
Additionally, by investing a regular amount each month, you
take advantage of an investment strategy known as dollar cost averaging. This
allows you to spread your purchases over time and lessens the risk of investing
a large amount in a single
investment at the wrong time.
You’ll buy more units of an investment when its price is low
and fewer units when the price is high. While there is no guarantee that you’ll
have a gain when you sell, dollar cost averaging may help reduce investment
risk and build investing discipline.
What is rebalancing and why should people do it?
Maxwell: Rebalancing just means monitoring your asset
allocation and diversification over time. Think of it as doing routine
maintenance, like getting your oil changed, to help performance and protect
against larger problems down the road. We recommend rebalancing every six
Within the past year, employees have been able to earmark
contributions to a Roth 403(b). Why should they consider doing this?
Munn: When contributing to a Roth 403(b) account, taxes are
due on that amount now, not when you withdraw the funds in retirement. This
change could benefit you if you are concerned about being in a higher tax
bracket or balancing taxable and tax-free income in retirement or estate
planning for your heirs.
In addition, there are no income limits to participating in
a Roth 403(b) account as there are with Roth IRAs. Not every situation is the
same, so you should carefully consider the implications of contributing to a
Roth and consult a tax adviser.
Explain the importance of diversification.
Munn: Diversification means spreading your investment eggs
among several different baskets to reduce risk and increase opportunities for
Different types of investments are called asset classes –
stocks, bonds, real estate or guaranteed accounts, for example. Generally these
investments do not move up or down together.
Within asset classes you can diversify even more – for
example, within stocks by the size of the companies, or within bonds by
different maturities. Spreading investments across the globe can also reduce
Didn’t that strategy fail in recent years as a sound
Maxwell: It’s important to remember that diversification can
only help reduce portfolio risk, not eliminate it. The 2008–09 bear
market sent virtually every type of investment class falling at the same time.
While spreading out your investments among different
investment types won’t completely shield you from a market meltdown, it may
minimize the pain.