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MADISON, Wis. – What started out as a series of one-day workshops to educate credit unions about the ever-changing landscape of individual retirement accounts has evolved to week-long interactive, “intensive yet fun” sessions in tourist-friendly cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando. It’s been nearly 17 years since CUNA Mutual Group started its IRA workshops to keep credit unions abreast on annual regulatory and ruling changes, and this year’s “Supertrain” compliance workshops are poised to break down the logistics on every issue from the new life expectancy tables to the higher contribution limits, said Karen Yandell Buege, CUNA Mutual IRA training manager. If the IRA question hotline is any indicator of the need for education – more than 130,000 calls were placed in 2002 – it’s no wonder the sessions have been around for almost a decade. “Eliminating the fear,” is the goal of the workshops, Yandell Buege said, adding, “this is an excellent time to be informed” because of the complexity of new and established IRA rules and regulations. Yandell Buege along with several IRA expert trainers will conduct the eight workshops, with the first one starting March 3 in San Antonio and the last one ending Sept. 15 in Pittsburgh. The daily sessions will provide updates on rollovers, pending legislation and other timely topics including Pres. Bush’s proposed lifetime savings accounts (LSAs) and retirement savings accounts (RSAs). If enacted, the accounts would allow everyone to contribute with no limitations on age of income status. The first three days of the workshop will cover traditional and Roth IRAs including the new periodic payment calculations, beneficiary payment options and pending legislation for 2003-2004. Breakout sessions will occur on Thursday where participants can generate marketing strategies for respective IRA programs, create a staff training plan or engage in round table discussions on member tax issues, simplified employee pension (SEP) plans among other topics. Friday’s session is devoted to the Coverdell education savings accounts. Workshop attendees can also take the first step in becoming a certified IRA specialist. Certification is earned by attending the traditional and Roth IRAs “Brush-up Workshop” and passing three take-home certification exams. The exams can be completed at participants’ own pace but must be turned in by December 31 of the year they attend Supertrain. Workshop participants who score an 80% or better in all three exams will be registered as a certified IRA Specialist by CUNA Mutual. The three-year certification period begins the year the third exam is passed. This year’s exam’s topics include death benefits, excess contributions, periodic payments, withdrawals and withholding. Nearly 25% of participants go on to become IRA specialists. More than 600 credit union employees attended last year’s Supertrain workshops with an average of 80 participants in each city, Yandell Buege said. While the state of the economy, its effect on travel and the impending war in Iraq has affected early registration, she said, cities such as Las Vegas has already drawn three times the number of workshop participants over last year’s. Heidi Moore, vice president of operations at Badger Globe Credit Union in Neenah, Wis., has attended the workshops since the mid 1980s, earning her IRA specialist certification early on. She credits the “well-versed” trainers for making the sessions upbeat and informative. “You can’t stump them,” Moore said. “You would think the sessions could get a bit dry, but there’s a lot of interactivity and real-life scenarios to make the IRA experiences believable.” CUNA Mutual decides which city to conduct workshops in based on popular destinations and where there is a high concentration of credit unions. Texas, for example, has had the highest number of Supertrain participants followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and New York. -

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