How Well Do Teachers Understand Their Pensions, and What Do They Think about Alternative Pension Structures?

Michael DeArmond and Dan Goldhaber
Publication Date: 
June 2010

This paper addresses two questions: How well do teachers understand their current pension plans? And, what do they think about alternative plan structures? The data come from administrative records and a 2006 survey of teachers in Washington State. The results suggest Washington’s teachers are fairly knowledgeable about their pensions, though new entrants and midā€career teachers appear to be lessknowledgeable than veteran teachers. As for teachers’ preferences for plan structure, the survey suggests that when it comes to investing additional retirement savings, a plurality of teachers favor defined contribution plans which offer more portability and choice, but more risk than traditional defined benefit plans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, all else equal, teachers newer to the profession are more likely than veteran teachers to favor a defined contribution structure.