Get Up to Speed on Pensions Back to Top

New to the Legislature or state pensions? Knowledgeable about pensions, but want a refresher or an update on current events? This session provided by OSA staff is for you!

At the end of this session, you will walk away with an understanding of some pension basics like who’s covered, who governs our state pensions, how they are funded, how well-funded they are, and a better understanding of current events and how they affect pensions.

Recording of the session availablehere.

What is a Pension and What are WA State Pension Benefits? Back to Top

A defined benefit pension is a retirement program that provides guaranteed income in retirement, based on a benefit formula. The video below illustrates pensions and the pension plans for Washington State and local government employers.

What plans exist for Washington State government employees? Back to Top

The Department of Retirement Systems administers pension plans for the states' public employees, teachers, and public safety personnel. The full list of DRS administered programs, as well as details about those programs, is available on DRS' website. A summarized list of plan provisions can be viewed here.

Washington Plan Design Back to Top

Washington's first pension plans are collectively known as the Plans 1, and were established in the late 1930s. The largest of these plans, PERS 1 and TRS 1, were open until 1977. Below is a list of video resources available to explain the history, design, and changes made to the Plans 1:

The Plans 1 were followed by Plans 2 and Plans 3. The following video resources document the developments of the Plans 2 and subsequent implementation of the Plans 3.

Washington Plan Governance Back to Top

Pension plan governance plays a critical role in structuring and delivering benefits to plan members. The Office of the State Actuary has prepared resources to inform interested parties about the unique governance structure of Washington pensions. Click on the links below (from 2009) to view video materials relating to governance of the Washington state pension system.

The governance of Washington State pensions has also changed over time to the system that is in place today. The following videos (from 2009) document both the causes and effects of changes to Washington pension governance to date.

How are Pension Plans Paid For? Back to Top

The following videos highlight pension funding practices in Washington State.

What are the Current Pension Contribution Rates? Back to Top

The State Actuary calculates and certifies contribution rates based on the funding policies, methods, and assumptions set in current law to determine how much employees and employers should pay (as a percent of total pay) to prefund the benefits of the systems. OSA also studies and reports on the experience and financial condition of the Washington State retirement systems.

We perform these calculations for the:

The SCPP forwards recommendations for all plans, except LEOFF Plan 2, to the PFC which adopts rates subject to revision by the Legislature. The LEOFF 2 Board adopts contribution rates for LEOFF Plan 2, which are then subject to change by the Legislature.

What are the future contribution rates? Back to Top

The Office of the State Actuary calculates and certifies current contribution rates based on the funding policies, methods, and assumptions set in current law, and projects future contribution rates. This information can be found on the Contribution Rate Projection webpage.

Contribution Rate Cycle Back to Top

Contribution rates are adopted following RCW 41.45. Click here for a detailed explanation of the rate-setting cycle in Washington.

Cost-Of-Living Adjustments Back to Top

The Department of Retirement Systems maintains information on the cost-of-living adjustments available to plan members. Click here for more information on DRS's website.

Glossary Back to Top

For a complete glossary of pension and actuarial terms, click here.

Last Reviewed: 02/16/2022

Last Updated: 02/16/2022