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Teachers Retirement System Plan 3

Employees who have established eligibility to participate in the State Board Retirement Plan (SBRP) and have not previously participated in a Washington state retirement plan have the option to participate in either the SBRP or Plan 3 of the Teachers Retirement System (for faculty) or the Public Employee Retirement System (for non-faculty).

This page outlines the choices faculty must make to decide whether to participate in the SBRP or Teachers Retirement System Plan 3 (TRS 3).

Deciding Between SBRP and TRS 3

Your decision regarding the SBRP and TRS 3 plans depends greatly on your career goals and whether or not you intend long-term service in higher education and/or the state of Washington. Some key differences:

  • The SBRP 401(a) is similar to a 401(k) and is portable worldwide to other higher education institutions, as well as private employers. In addition to being portable, the SBRP is flexible, and requires you to take responsibility for making investment decisions best suited to your risk tolerance and long term retirement savings goals.
  • TRS 3 is best suited to those who prefer the security of the defined benefit as a baseline income in retirement and anticipate long-term employment with the state of Washington.

Operating under IRC Section 401(a), TRS 3 is a hybrid plan, having components of a Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plan. Read more about the plan in the TRS 3 Member Handbook.

If you elect TRS 3 for your retirement plan, participation is mandatory from the date of initial eligibility — retroactive contributions may be required. You have 30 days from the date you receive the notice of eligibility to decide between the SBRP and TRS Plan 3.

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The defined contribution portion of the plan is funded through mandatory deductions from an employee’s salary, called “Employee Pick-up Contributions.” An employee elects one of six contribution options. This is a one-time election and cannot be changed for the duration of employment with a participating employer.

You are responsible for investing your contributions. The value of your defined contribution benefit at retirement will consist of your contributions and their investment returns. You can choose to invest in either the Washington State Investment Board (WSIB) Investment Program or the Self-Directed Investment Program.

The defined benefit portion of the plan is funded by employer contributions. Based on the plan's formula, it provides a specific lifetime monthly pension amount when you retire. The formula takes into account your Washington state public employee years of service and salary history. Vesting requires 10 years of full-time equivalent service.

The TRS 3 defined benefit formula is:

1% x Service Credit Years x Average Final Compensation = Monthly Benefit

Service Credit is based on the number of hours you work, which your employer reports to DRS. See the TRS 3 Member Handbook for details about earning Service Credit.

Average Final Compensation is the average of your 60 consecutive highest paid service credit months. Any severance pay, lump sum payment for unused sick leave, or vacation/annual leave is not included.

Rules set by the state legislature allow employees 30 days to make an enrollment choice. (Don’t confuse this 30-day choice period with the 90-day time period provided to employees making the choice between TRS 2 and TRS 3.)

Employees who do not make a choice within 30 calendar days will be defaulted into the SBRP. Employee choice or default cannot be changed at any time during your ongoing employment with a SBRP participating employer.

Participating employers will notify eligible employees of their options and deadline for election. You’ll be asked to complete and sign a Notice of Eligibility/Election form. This Election Notice describes various employment situations and provides the relevant retirement plan options. If you are a new retirement-eligible employee and have not yet received this notice, contact your Benefits Office as soon as possible to review your eligibility. Remember, you have 30 days from the notice date to decide between SBRP and TRS Plan 3.

Because this is a one-time irrevocable decision, we encourage you to make time during the 30-day election period to familiarize yourself with both plans, talk with your spouse or partner, and seek the assistance of a financial counselor. The deadline will not be extended.

SBRP Election: Electing SBRP for your retirement plan is not the same as enrolling in the plan. To enroll, you must contact TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association) directly. Employer and employee contributions begin at the start of the payroll period in which your election is made.

TRS 3 Election: Electing TRS 3 for your retirement plan requires enrolling in the plan immediately from the date of eligibility. Enrollment means that the employee contributions and the employer matching contributions will be made to the State. If your TRS 3 election is received after your payroll has begun, retroactive deductions will be taken to ensure that all of your TRS 3-eligible employment is covered and you start earning service credit.

No Election: If you do not respond to the Election Notice within the 30-day period, you have, in effect, made a choice and will be defaulted to the SBRP, with no future opportunity to change plans. Your employer will confirm your SBRP default and contributions will be made from your paycheck and matched by your employer. Contributions will be defaulted into a Lifecycle fund that best matches your projected retirement date.

Disclaimer: In the case of discrepancies between this information and the provisions of the SBRP Plan Document or PERS regulations, the Plan Documents or regulations will prevail.

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Last Modified: 1/30/24, 3:27 PM

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