Multiple Plans

What Is Dual Membership and How Does It Affect Me?

If you are a member of two or more of the systems the Department of Retirement Systems
(DRS) or the first-class city retirement systems administers, you are likely a dual member (see WAC 415-113-041):

  • Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS)
  • Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS)
  • School Employees’ Retirement System (SERS)
  • Public Safety Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS)
  • Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System (LEOFF), Plan 2 only
  • Washington State Patrol Retirement System (WSPRS)
  • First-class city retirement systems for Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma

Am I a dual member?

If you meet all the following criteria, yes, you are a dual member:

  • You are an active member of one of the dual member systems listed above.
  • You used to contribute to a different dual member system.
  • You haven’t retired from any DRS-administered system.
  • You aren’t receiving disability retirement or disability leave benefits

How could being a dual member help me?

Dual membership has four advantages:

  1. You can add up service credit earned in all dual member systems to become eligible to retire.
  2. You might be able to restore service credit you withdrew.
  3. You might be able to retire retroactively from one or more dual member systems.
  4. You can use your highest base salary to calculate your monthly benefit.

If you ever worked in a SERS-eligible position and a PERS-eligible position at the same time, different rules apply. Contact DRS for more information.

Retirement eligibility

You can add up service credit you earned in your dual member systems to become eligible to retire. If that combined service makes you eligible to retire from one of your dual systems, you can choose to retire from all of them.

Age requirements remain. And early retirement rules apply if you retire before normal retirement age (see the chart below).

Early Retirement Factors (ERFs)
30 years or more of service credit
(prorated monthly)
Age when you retire20 years of
service credit
3% ERF2008 ERF5% ERF*
550.3860.700.800.50
560.4230.730.830.55
570.4630.760.860.60
580.5070.790.890.65
590.5560.820.920.70
600.6110.850.950.75
610.6720.880.980.80
620.7410.911.000.85
630.8170.941.000.90
640.9030.971.000.95

* If you were hired on or after May 1, 2013, have 30 years of service credit and are age 55 or older,
your ERF reduces your benefit by 5% for each year (prorated monthly) before age 65.

The ERFs are subject to change based on State Actuary figures. The administrative factors used in the table above are for illustrative purposes only. You can review the complete table of factors here.

Restoring service credit

Each time you become a dual member, you can repay any contributions you took out of a previous dual member system. Doing so will restore your service credit. You have 24 months from the time you became a dual member to pay back the funds plus interest.

Options for retirement date

When you decide to stop working for your most recent employer in your active retirement system and start your benefit, you need to decide on a retirement date for your prior dual member system. Here are your choices for the prior system:

  • Start your benefit on the same date as your active system.
  • Defer taking other system(s) benefit to later date, up to full retirement age.
  • If eligible, retroactively retire in other system(s). “Retroactive retirement” means that when you retire from your active plan you might be able to retire from your prior plan to a retroactive date. Doing so would result in a lump sum payment retroactive to the
    retirement date in addition to your monthly benefit.

Benefit amount: You will receive separate monthly benefits from each of your dual systems. Each system calculates its payment amount in its own way (see “Calculating benefits,” beginning on page 8). But they are all composed of three factors:

  • Service credit
  • Multiplier (usually 1% or 2%)
  • Highest average earnings

Example 1Not eligible for retroactive retirement

Let’s say you were an active PERS Plan 2 member who was working for Seattle School District as an instructional aide. During the school year, you earned a teaching certificate and began teaching for Seattle School District without separating from employment.

Until age 67, you work continuously as a teacher in TRS Plan 2 for Seattle School District. You start your TRS benefit. You also want to retroactively retire to age 65 in PERS Plan 2.

Because you didn’t separate from employment with Seattle School District when you changed jobs, you aren’t eligible for a retroactive retirement date in the PERS system.

Example 2Eligible for retroactive retirement

Let’s say you started your career in TRS 2 working for Olympia School District. You resign from teaching and you later start working for the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) in a PERS 3 position. You work at OSPI until age 67. At this point you start your PERS benefit, and because there was a valid separation when leaving your TRS position, you need to decide on a retirement date from your TRS system. You can start the benefit at age 67, or you can choose a retroactive date back to age 65. The age 65 benefit will be based on earnings prior to age 65.

Example 3If eligible, how do I decide?

Let’s use example 2 as an illustration. Your average TRS salary was $4,000.00 per month and your PERS base salary from OSPI is $7,000.00 per month. You can retire at age 67 from the TRS system using the higher $7,000.00 salary in your calculation, or you can retire retroactively to age 65, using the PERS salary prior to age 65. The PERS base salary prior to age 65 is $6,000.00 per month. You have 10 years of service in TRS.

TRS Age 67 Calculation: 2% X 10 years X 7000 = $1,400.00 per month

TRS Age 65 Calculation: 2% X 10 years X 6000 = $1,200.00 per month plus a retroactive

(24 X 1200) payment of $28,800

So while you start out $28,800 ahead with the age 65 retirement you are losing $200.00 per month compared to the age 67 retirement date. It would take approximately 144 months of receiving the higher age 67 benefit for the additional $200.00 to add up to the forgone $28,800 under the age 65 retroactive scenario. DRS recommends consulting with a tax professional to evaluate IRS tax implications of each choice.

Important: To be eligible for a retroactive retirement date for your prior system, you must have separated from employment with your prior system’s employer.

Highest average earnings

Each plan has its own rules for calculating highest average earnings. DRS will use the highest base salary to calculate your benefit in each system based on the rules of that plan.

If you retire retroactively, your earnings when working in that position will set your base salary.

However, you can choose a more current retirement date and use higher earnings for your base salary. For more information, please contact us.

Base salary includes wages and salaries deferred under federal tax codes. It might include overtime and other cash payments if all your dual systems accept them. Base salary doesn’t include:

  • Nonmonetary compensation
  • Cash outs for unused sick, vacation or annual leave
  • Severance pay
  • Fringe benefits

Does my retirement benefit have a maximum benefit amount?

Maybe. If you have 15 or more years in a retirement plan that has a capped benefit and have a combined total of at least 30 service credit years, then contact DRS for more information. (see example 6 on page 9.)

These systems are capped at the following percentages of highest average earnings*:

  • WSPRS Plans 1 and 2: 75%
  • TRS Plan 1: 60%
  • PERS Plan 1: 60%
  • First-class cities: Seattle and Tacoma, 60%; Spokane, 64.5%

* Exceptions to this formula might apply depending on your retirement date.

How could dual membership affect my benefit?

The following examples show common ways dual membership can affect a monthly benefit. The administrative factors used are for illustrative purposes only. See Administrative Factors  for current numbers.

Example 1Retire early from one system

Let’s say you’re age 52. You have four service credit years in LEOFF Plan 2 and 21 in PERS Plan 1. You can combine your service credit from both systems to qualify to retire.

PERS Plan 1 rules say you need to be at least age 55 with 25 or more service credit years to retire. But since you have at least 20 years of service credit and are older than 50, you qualify to retire using LEOFF Plan 2 rules.

You can retire right away and receive reduced benefits from both systems. The reduction reflects that you’ll be receiving your benefit for longer than the system’s eligibility rules call for.

Calculating benefits

PERS

Benefit formulasHighest earnings
Plan 1

2% x service credit years x Average Final Compensation (AFC) = monthly benefit
Plan 1

AFC: The average of your 24 consecutive highest paid service credit months. Your benefit can be no higher than 60% of your AFC.
Plan 2

2% x service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit
Plan 2 and 3

AFC: The monthly average of your 60 consecutive highest paid service credit months.
Plan 3

1% service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit

TRS

Benefit formulasHighest earnings
Plan 1
2% x service credit years x Average Final Compensation (AFC) = monthly benefit
Plan 1
AFC: The average of your two consecutive highest paid fiscal years. Your benefit can be no higher than 60% of your AFC.
Plan 2
2% x service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit
Plan 2 and 3
AFC: The monthly average of your 60 consecutive highest paid service credit months.
Plan 3
1% service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit

SERS

Benefit formulasHighest earnings
Plan 2
2% x service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit
Plan 2 and 3
AFC: The monthly average of your 60 consecutive highest paid service credit months.
Plan 3
1% service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit

PSERS

Benefit formulasHighest earnings
Plan 2
2% x service credit years x AFC = monthly benefit
Plan 2
AFC: The monthly average of your 60 consecutive highest paid service credit months

Example 2Retire early from two systems

Let’s say you’re 57 years of age and a former WSPRS member. Now you’re a member of PERS Plan 2. You want to retire as soon as possible. But you want your benefit to still reach a particular amount and want to know your options. In WSPRS Plan 1, you have 14 years of service credit and an Average Final Salary (AFS) of $6,000. In PERS Plan 2, you have 8 years of service credit and an Average Final Compensation (AFC) of $4,000.

As an inactive WSPRS Plan 1 member, you become eligible for normal retirement at age 60. If you retire now at age 57, your benefit will be reduced to 73.6% of its full value to reflect retiring early. As an active PERS Plan 2 member, you become eligible for normal retirement at age 65. So if you retire now, you benefit will be reduced to 43.5% of its full value to reflect retiring early.

Retiring now

WSPRS Plan 1 benefit

2% x 14 x $6,000 = $1,680

73.6% x $1,680 = $1,236.48

PERS Plan 2 benefit

2% x 8 x $4,000 = $640

43.5% x $640 = $278.40

Total monthly benefits at age 57

$1,236.48 + $278.40 = $1,514.88

If you remain an active PERS Plan 2 member for three more years, you can claim a normal retirement from WSPRS at age 60.

Retiring in three years

WSPRS Plan 1 benefit

2% x 14 x $6,000 = $1,680

100% x $1,680 = $1,680

PERS Plan 2 benefit

2% x 11 x $4,000 = $880

58.8% x $880 = $517.44

Total monthly benefits at age 60

$1,680 + $517.44 = $2,197.44

If you wait until age 60, your monthly benefit total will be higher than if you retire now.

Example 3Highest average earnings

Let’s say you’re age 65. You worked for 10 years as a teacher in TRS Plan 1. For the past 15 years, you’ve worked in a PERS Plan 3 position. Your service credit and highest average monthly earnings are:

In TRS Plan 1, you have 10 years of service credit and an AFC of $2,600. In PERS Plan 3, you have 15 years of service credit and an AFC of $4,600.

Based on your age and service credit, you are eligible to retire from each system without using your dual membership to qualify. However, if you retire as a dual member, you can use your base salary from PERS Plan 3 to calculate your TRS Plan 1 benefit.

Retiring without dual membership

TRS Plan 1 benefit

2% x 10 x $2,600 = $520

PERS Plan 3 benefit

1% x 15 x $4,600 = $690

Total monthly benefits without dual membership

$520 + $690 = $1,210

Example 4Retroactive retirement

Let’s say you worked for 4 years in PERS Plan 1 and left your job but didn’t withdraw your contributions. You then teach in a TRS Plan 1 position for 23 years. Your last day on the job was June 30, 2018. You are age 56 and have 27 years of combined service credit.

Because you are older than 55 and have more than 25 years of combined service credit, you can retire right away from TRS (that is, July 1, 2018).

You have a choice of PERS retirement dates. To receive an unreduced benefit, you can retire July

1, 2018, or retroactively on July 1, 2017. The 2017 date is the earliest you qualify for an unreduced PERS retirement. (It’s based on your age and combined service credit.)

If you choose July 1, 2018, your highest average earnings will be $3,600 a month. If you choose July 1, 2017, your highest average earnings will be $3,500 a month.

July 1, 2018

PERS Plan 1 benefit plus one-time retroactive payment

2% x 4 x $3,500 = $280

$280 x 12 = $3,360

PERS Plan 1 benefit plus one-time retroactive payment

2% x 4 x $3,500 = $280

$280 x 12 = $3,360

If you use the 2018 date, you’ll earn $8 more a month. But it would take 40 years of earning that extra $8 a month to add up to the retroactive payment you’ll receive if you take the 2017 retirement date.

Example 5When to retire from systems separately

Let’s say you’re age 60 and an active PERS Plan 2 member.

In TRS Plan 1, you have 30 years of service credit and an AFC of $6,000. In PERS Plan 2, you have 5 years of service credit and an AFC of $4,150.

Based on your age and service credit, you are eligible to retire from each system without using your dual membership to qualify.

Retiring without dual membership

TRS Plan 1 benefit

2% x 30 x $6,000 = $3,600

PERS Plan 2 benefit

2% x 5 x $4,150 = $415

Total monthly benefits without dual membership

$3,600 + $415 = $4,015

If you use your dual membership to retire, you can use your TRS highest average earnings for both your benefits. However, TRS Plan 1 rules apply because it has the highest benefit. That means your benefit will be capped at 60% of your AFC

Retiring with dual membership

TRS Plan 1 benefit

2% x 30 x $6,000 = $3,600

PERS Plan 2 benefit

2% x 5 x $6,000 = $600

Total monthly benefits using dual membership

$3,600 + $600 = $4,200

60% x $4,200 = $2,520

In this case, retiring separately would bring you

the highest monthly benefit payments.

Example 6: Capped benefit

Let’s say you’re age 60 and have worked in TRS Plan 1 for 20 years. You earned an Average Final Compensation (AFC) of $4,100. And you’ve been an active member in PERS Plan 1 for the past 11 years and have an AFC of $3,950. Both plans have a 60% cap at 30 years of service.

Retiring with dual membership

Step 1: Calculate the maximum benefit for each of your dual systems as though all your service credit were earned within the system whose AFC is highest for you.

2% x 31 x $4,100 = $2,542

60% x $4,100 = $2,460

Step 2: Calculate the individual benefit for each system’s earned service credit within that system.

TRS Plan 1

2% x 20 x $4,100 = $1,640

PERS Plan 1

2% x 11 x $3,950 = $869

Step 3: Compare the amounts. If the individual totals together exceed the maximum benefit, the individual ones will be proportionally reduced until the combined total equals the maximum allowed amount.

$1,640 + $869 = $2,447

$2,509 – $2,460 = $49 (over) Total benefit: $2,460

If you would like to know how we calculate the proportional reduction, please contact us.

You also have the option to retire from each system independently. In this case, the maximum benefit rule doesn’t apply.

Retiring with dual membership

TRS Plan 1

2% x 20 x $4,100 = $1,640

PERS Plan 1

2% x 11 x $3,950 = $869

Total benefit

$1,640 + $869 = $2,509

Example 7: Retire from one or both systems?

Let’s say you’re age 60 and are an active PSERS Plan 2 member. You have 20 years of PSERS Plan 2 service and 8 years of PERS Plan 3 service. Your PSERS highest average earnings were $5,600. Your PERS highest average earnings were $3,400. You’re eligible for a normal retirement in PSERS. But retiring from PERS now would be an early retirement. And that would reduce your monthly defined benefit to 59.4% of its full value.

PSERS Plan 2 benefit

2% x 20 x $5,600 = $2,240

PERS Plan 3 Defined Benefit now

1% x 8 x $5,600 = $448

58.8% x $448 = $263.42

PERS Plan 3 Defined Benefit at age 65

1% x 8 x $5,600 = $448

Online access

Review your service credit details and update your beneficiary and contact information in your online account.

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