Teacher Retirement System - TRS

DEFINITION of 'Teacher Retirement System - TRS'

Teacher Retirement System - TRS  is an organization that is specifically set up for teachers to help with or manage retirement planning. Because there are individual teacher retirement systems set up for each state, there are differences in what they each offer. For the most part, the organization helps arrange retirement benefits for its member and their beneficiaries.

BREAKING DOWN 'Teacher Retirement System - TRS'

As part of the retirement program, members make regular contributions to their retirement accounts. The funds that are contributed are then invested and managed.

The teacher retirement system also offers disability and death benefits to its members and ensures the responsible distribution of the benefits.

Unfunded Liabilities

Many states have not set aside enough money to fund teacher and other government worker pensions even though the employees have paid in their mandated share. The states were $1.38 trillion short in funding retirement systems in 2012 and that number has increased since then, according to Pew Research. 

To learn about pension debt for teacher-specific plans in each state, see the National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) state pension report. Another source of information is Teacherpensions.org, which has this report titled the "Pension Pac-Man" and gives average data for teachers in each state.

The Public Plans Database also gives detailed information by state and public pension type.  "The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (CRR) and the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) established a partnership in 2007 to 1) produce research on state and local pension plans and the retirement prospects of state and local workers; 2) disseminate research findings broadly; and 3) develop and make available comprehensive data on state and local pensions and retiree health benefits," the website stated.

"Teacher pensions are a mess," according to the Brookings Institution. "Understanding what’s going on with teacher pensions is messy as heck. However, some progress can be made if we divide the topic into two pieces: Are teacher pensions really high? (Not so much.) Are teacher pensions really expensive? (Not only expensive, they’re even more expensive than it appears on the surface.)"

The Brookings report notes that teacher pensions are generous in some states, stingy in others, and about average in many states based on similar worker pensions in non-teaching jobs. "Some teacher pensions are indeed very generous, but many teachers end up with only a small pension—or no pension at all. This is a screwy way to run a retirement system, and is almost certainly not an effective way to spend taxpayer money to attract great people into the profession."