Clint Rhoden grew up in Sheridan and had spent 17 years at the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System before he was named its executive director in October 2018. From 2001-13, he was a lead developer. Rhoden then served as associate director of operations from April 2014 until 2018.
Rhoden received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Central Arkansas in 1993 and his law degree from the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2003.
Rhoden helped lead a computer modernization project that reduced ATRS’ data-processing costs from about $1.5 million a year to less than $500,000 a year.
What keeps you up at night?
Turbulent economic conditions are worrisome, but the thing that keeps me up the most these past six months is the dread of learning another ATRS retiree or educator has had their life cut short as a result of COVID-19. It is not fair that these members will not get to enjoy the lifetime retirement benefits that they worked so hard for by providing dedicated service to the youth of Arkansas.
What could regular investors — non-teachers — learn from the ATRS that might serve them well?
The ATRS board has developed a long-term plan for a well-diversified portfolio, currently valued at over $17 billion, and sticks with it. Investment portfolios of individuals are much smaller and have different time horizons, but it has been our experience that having a plan and following the plan is important.
Has COVID led to a higher-than-normal number of retirements this year?
COVID-19 has not really resulted in higher-than-normal retirement rates at ATRS. We have had 1,553 retirements so far, since July, which is 10 more than this time last year. Retirements have been trending down for the past four years. At this time in 2016, there were already 1,821 retirements.
You have a background in information technology. How does that inform your day-to-day work?
I am always looking for ways to use technology to improve the ATRS member experience and to increase ATRS staff efficiency. The biggest advantage of being one of the in-house computer programmers who wrote the current membership management system is the ability to make executive decisions based on firsthand data analysis. Every two years, during legislative sessions, ATRS laws change and, oftentimes, I am able to “see” the computer code changes that will be required.
What do you wish our readers knew about the ATRS?
The ATRS board, composed of member-elected individuals and ex-officio members, does not receive compensation for their hard work to keep the system actuarially sound and to support its goal to recruit, retain and reward those involved in the education of the children of Arkansas. This goal has a direct economic benefit for the state as each year ATRS pays roughly $1.3 billion in retirement benefits. Ninety-five percent of the money paid to ATRS retirees stays right here in Arkansas and is used to boost the local economies of all 75 counties in the state.