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Teachers Retirement System (TRS) Plan 3


TRS 3 is a two-part (hybrid) retirement savings plan that provides a secure formula based income, and also allows you to invest your own contributions to accumulate a cash balance for retirement.

The Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) provides detailed plan information in the TRS Plan 3 Member Handbook. Below are plan highlights you should know.

TRS 3 includes these two benefit components:

PART 1: An employer-funded defined benefit

The UW contributes to your retirement by funding the defined benefit portion of TRS 3. Contributions are based on a percentage of your salary. The contribution rate is determined each year by the state legislature. Contributions are invested in the TRS Plan 3 Retirement Trust Fund to pay future benefits, and cannot be withdrawn.

PART 2: An employee-funded defined contribution

The defined contribution component of TRS 3 is funded entirely on your contributions, the investment earnings on those contributions, and, if an annuity is taken, the age at which you decide to take payment. You select from the contribution rate options available and can elect to self-direct your own investments or choose to have your account managed by the Washington State Investment Board.

Making Your Plan Decision

Choosing a retirement plan is an important financial decision. To make the best choice you will need to carefully consider your individual situation, including such factors as:

After you've thought about your personal situation, research your options:

Earning Service Credit in TRS 3

TRS 3 benefits are based on a formula—see "Calculating Your TRS 3 Retirement Benefits" below. Key to that formula is earning "service credit" for the time you are enrolled in TRS 3. It is based on the number of hours you work. There are two ways to earn service credit: month by month, or over an annual basis.

Month by Month

Month-by-month service credit is earned according to the hours you work. See "How

At the UW, to obtain one full month of service credit in each of the 12 months, the minimum salaried appointment is 56.25%.

Annual Basis

Alternatively, when you work for an institution of higher learning such as UW, you may receive 12 service credit months for the "school year" (i.e., September 1–August 31) if you:

You may receive six service credit months for each school year if you:

Note: If you earn compensation in fewer than nine months of the school year, you will receive service credit based on the number of hours compensated each month.

Calculating Your TRS 3 Retirement Benefits

In a defined benefit retirement plan, the eventual retirement benefit is calculated using a pre-determined formula and is not related to the amount of money paid into the plan. In TRS 3 the UW contribution funds the defined benefit. The formula for TRS 3 benefit is:

1% x years of service credit x average final compensation

Once you begin drawing your defined benefit, both TRS plans provide for a cost of living adjustment (COLA) each July 1, of up to three percent per year. The COLA begins once you have been receiving your defined benefit for one full year.

Calculating the Defined Contribution Portion of Your Plan

The employee contribution to TRS 3 funds a defined contribution plan. In a defined contribution retirement plan, your retirement income will vary depending on how you elect to invest your funds and how those investments perform over time.

Employee contributions to the TRS 3 retirement plan:

The defined contribution component of TRS 3 is based entirely on your contributions, the investment earnings on those contributions, and, if an annuity is taken, the age at which you decide to take payment. If you end employment at the UW and withdraw your contributions, you still have a right to the employer-funded defined benefit component if you have attained at least five years of service credit.

Current Contribution Rate Options:

Option A:
5% of pay at all ages*

Option B:
5% of pay up to age 35; then
6% from age 35 up to 45; and then
7.5% age 45 and above

Option C:
6% of pay up to age 35; then
7.5% from age 35 up to 45; and then
8.5% from age 45 and above

Option D:
7% of pay at all ages

Option E:
10% of pay at all ages

Option F:
15% of pay at all ages

* Once your contribution rate option has been established, it can only be changed when you change employers. Option A is the mandatory default rate for those who do not choose a contribution rate.


Enrolling in TRS 3

  1. Complete the TRS enrollment form.
  2. Print, sign, and send your enrollment form to: UW Benefits Office, Box 359556
  3. You can verify that your form has been received by checking your enrollment status in ESS approximately 3 to 5 business days after returning the forms to the UW Benefits Office.
  4. You should keep your beneficiary designation up to date by contacting the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS).

Leaving the University before Retirement

Defined Benefit: If you leave the University before retirement you may delay receiving your defined benefit until a later date. Members who have at least 20 service credit years and who leave the University prior to age 65 have the value of their defined plan prorated. TRS 3 provides an average three percent adjustment for inflation per year until you begin collecting your benefit (or until age 65, whichever is earliest).

Defined Contribution: You can access your defined contribution account whenever you separate from all TRS-covered employment service. Withdrawing money from the defined contribution portion of TRS 3 does not affect your eligibility to receive a monthly pension benefit under the defined benefit portion of the plan.

Withdrawn contributions and earnings are subject to income taxation in the year they are withdrawn. In addition, if you are under age 59 1/2 (or age 55 and retired) you may be subject to an IRS penalty for early withdrawal from a retirement plan.

If you withdraw your contributions before retirement, you lose your right to future retirement benefits. You can restore your contributions and re-establish your benefits under certain circumstances. Explore the TRS website for more information including member publications.

Retiring from the UW

See Retiring Under TRS 3 Rules.


Disclaimer: If there are any discrepancies between this document and the provisions of the UWRP Plan Document or TRS statutes, the Plan Document or statue will prevail.