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* * Housekeeping job a stepping-stone to a better life for Burma refugee
* * Office of Human Resources announces 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 southern boundary.

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 in 1990.

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 Middle School.

For now, Tial is the family’s sole breadwinner as a housekeeper at the University.

It is a job she values dearly and does well – so well that students nominated her for a 2010 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.

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 better life.

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 be possible.

* *

Office of Human Resources announces 2011 holiday  schedule

The University’s holiday schedule for 2011 is included below (with the schedule for 2010):




New Year’s Day
January 1
December 31, 2010 *
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday
January 18
January 17
Spring Holiday
April 2
April 22
Memorial Day
May 31
May 30
Independence Day
July 5
July 4
Labor Day
September 6
September 5
November 25
November 26
November 24
November 25
Winter Holiday
December 24
December 27
December 23
December 26
New Year’s Eve
December 30
December 31
December 30

* 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 leave-and-holidays/index.htm.

* *

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 pensions.

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 TIAA-CREF.

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 Plan.

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 not participating.

Why should public employees who already have
defined pension 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 are young?

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 over time.

TIAA-CREF and Fidelity reps available to meet with employees

TIAA-CREF and Fidelity are the two investment firms available to University employees to open a 403(b) account and make contributions through payroll deduction.

Both Maxwell and Munn are available to meet on campus by appointment for individual consultations with employees. To contact Maxwell, call 919–451–3047 or e-mail To contact Munn, call 800–732–8353 or schedule online at

For more information on all the University’s supplemental retirement options, including the 401(k) and 457(b) plans, refer to

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 for risk 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 retirement.

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
from 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 months.

Within the past year, employees have been able to earmark payroll
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 growth.

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 risk.

Didn’t that strategy fail in recent years as a sound defense?

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.

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May 26, 2010

May 26, 2010 issue as PDF

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* *‘University’s living room’ provides key support for the library’s North Carolina Collection

* *For archaeologist Steve Davis, digging into history began at an early age

* *Journalist turns a series of fortunate events into a lifelong career

2010 Service Appreciation insert


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2009 - 2010

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