Finding Common Ground in Pension Reform: Lessons from the Washington State Pension SystemReport as inadecuate

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Bellwether Education Partners

As states and localities across the nation consider the tradeoffs between defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) pension systems, it is important to gain insight into what implications pension reforms might have on workforce composition and teachers' retirement savings behavior. Moreover, it is also important to consider that strategies to improve pension systems may exist outside of the DB-DC binary. This brief reports on the findings of research from Washington State, where, since 1996, teachers have been enrolled in either a traditional DB plan or a hybrid DB-DC plan, and where teachers have been able to choose between the two plans during two periods of time. This provides an unusual opportunity to study teachers' preferences for different types of pension plans as well as their savings behavior when enrolled in a plan with a DC component. The brief begins with an overview of the legislative history of Washington's teacher pension system as well as a description of the distinctive characteristics of the available pension plans. It then reports on several key lessons from analyses of the State's teacher pension system.

Descriptors: Retirement Benefits, Teachers, Teacher Attitudes, State Legislation, Money Management, Teacher Retirement

Bellwether Education Partners. e-mail: contactus[at]; Web site:

Author: Goldhaber, Dan; Grout, Cyrus


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