Plan 3 Overview

    Plan 3 is composed of two separate retirement benefit components: defined contribution and defined benefit. This hybrid structure allows for more flexibility in retirement planning.

    The defined benefit component is employer financed and- once you meet service credit requirements- provides for a lifetime monthly benefit at age 65, an unreduced lifetime benefit at age 62 or a reduced lifetime monthly benefit as early as age 55. The amount of the benefit is based on your years of service credit and your average final compensation. See the Plan 3 Member Handbook for additional details regarding the defined benefit component.

    The defined contribution component is member financed and provides a tax-deferred investment program that you may access any time after you separate from covered employment. The amount of retirement income generated by the defined contribution component depends on how much you contribute and the investment performance. You choose how much you contribute, where your contributions are invested, and how and when you take payment.

    The Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Plan 3, created by the Washington State Legislature in 1995, became effective on July 1, 1996. Anyone who became a TRS member between July 1, 1996 and July 1, 2007, automatically became a TRS Plan 3 member. Anyone first hired on or after July 1, 2007 has 90 days to choose between Plan 2 and Plan 3.*

    The School Employees’ Retirement System (SERS), created by the Washington State Legislature in 1998, became effective on September 1, 2000. SERS membership includes all eligible classified employees of school districts and Educational Service Districts.

    The Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Plan 3 was created by the Washington State Legislature in March 2000 and became effective March 1, 2002, for state agencies and higher education institutions;* and September 1, 2002, for local governments and municipalities.

    * Effective July 1, 2011: New employees of a higher education institution must contact their employers to find out if they're eligible to participate in a Higher Education Retirement Plan (HERP). If they are, they have 30 days from their hire date to choose a HERP or PERS Plan 3. If they do not make a decision within 30 days, they will default to a HERP.


    On March 4, 2016 Empower Retirement will be the new record keeper for PERS, SERS and TRS Plan 3 accounts. The upgrade is automatic. You do not need to do anything. Between Feb. 22 and March 4, access to your Plan 3 retirement account will be limited. This January, you will receive a summary flyer in the mail with additional details on what you can expect. For more information, visit the upgrade resource center.