Plan 3 Basics


What is Plan 3?

Defined benefit

(employer funded pension)


Defined contribution

(your investment contributions)


Total Plan 3

Plan 3 has two parts: A defined benefit (pension) and a defined contribution (investment). Your employer funds your defined benefit. You fund the defined contribution. Because it has defined benefit and defined contribution parts, Plan 3 is called a hybrid plan.

One plan, two parts

Defined benefit: The pension benefit funded by your employer. You must have enough service years to qualify for the pension (10 years or 5 if at least one year is earned over age 44). Once you qualify, you are guaranteed a lifetime benefit at retirement. See the “Defined benefit” section below for more information about this part of your retirement.

Defined contribution: The investment component funded by you. You chose or defaulted into a contribution rate when you began service in Plan 3. Contributions to your retirement plan are mandatory and are deducted from your gross salary. The money is invested into the investment fund(s) you choose; change your investment selections at any time. Once chosen, your defined contribution rate is permanent unless you change public sector employers.

You can withdraw defined contribution funds any time after leaving DRS-covered employment. Early withdrawals are subject to the additional 10% federal withholding tax. See the “Your contributions” section below for more information about this part of your retirement.

Plan 3 systems

As a Plan 3 member, you belong to one of three systems. Your public service employment determines which system you are in. Each system has different member guidelines. For more information about your retirement system, select from the following:

Not sure which system you are in? Talk to your payroll office or log in to your online account to find out if you are a PERS, SERS or TRS member.

See more resources on the Plan 3 homepage.

Your contributions

The defined contribution part of Plan 3 is funded by the mandatory contributions you make. When you selected Plan 3, you chose how much to contribute from one of the six percentage options. If you defaulted into Plan 3, your contribution rate is 5%. While your contribution rate cannot be changed unless you change employers, your investment fund selections can be changed at any time.

Your Plan 3 defined contribution provides a tax-deferred investment program that you can access any time after you separate from employment. Early withdrawal (before age 59½) might have tax consequences. The amount of retirement income you generate from the defined contribution component depends on how much you contribute and how well the investment(s) you select do in the market.

Plan 3 contribution rates


5% all ages


5% up to age 35 6% ages 35 through 44 7.5% age 45 and older


6% up to age 35 7.5% ages 35 through 44 8.5% age 45 and older


7% all ages


10% all ages


15% all ages

Finding your contribution rate: The monthly dollar figure is on your paycheck, your statement and in your online account. You can do a quick calculation to find the percentage rate or contact your employer's payroll/benefits office.

Changing your contribution rate: Once you choose or are defaulted to a rate, you can change it only when you change public sector employers. Changing employers means working for a different public sector employer, not another division or department where you currently work.

Limitations on annual contributions: Plan 3 is a 401(a) program. If you are participating in tax-deferred plans in addition to Plan 3, such as a tax-sheltered annuity 403(b), be aware that your total tax-deferred contributions are limited based on your annual taxable income. Note this does not affect limits for your DCP savings. Consult the IRS and/or a tax advisor for detailed information.

Can I roll money from my former employer's retirement plan into Plan 3?

No, Plan 3 does not accept money from rollovers. However, if eligible, you might be able to use the money in your former employer's retirement account to purchase out-of-state or additional service credit. Another option would be to roll the money into a DCP account. Call a Retirement Specialist at 800-547-6657 to discuss your options.

Money from other types of plans or accounts that are rolled over into a governmental 457 plan might still be subject to the 10% federal early withdrawal penalty prior to age 59½ upon payment from the 457 account. Talk with your financial advisor/planner about rolling money from one account to another, considering any potential fees and limitation of investment options.

If I don't qualify for the defined benefit, do I lose all of my Plan 3 contributions?
No, your contributions stay in your account and continue to be invested. You can leave your balance in your account and maintain control over your investment choices, or choose one of the payout options available upon leaving service.
Do I get a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) on my defined contribution account?
No, the defined contribution part of your Plan 3 account is funded by you. Cost-of-Living Adjustments do not apply to this variable rate contribution. However, you can use your defined contribution account balance to purchase a TAP annuity, which does have an automatic 3% annual COLA.

Defined benefit

The defined benefit part of Plan 3 is funded by mandatory contributions made by your employer and invested by the Washington State Investment Board. This part of your plan offers a guaranteed pension that is not dependent on investment performance. Your benefit is based on your years of service credit and the pay you've earned. Payments are guaranteed by the state of Washington.

Lifetime benefit

Once you meet age and service requirements and you’ve applied for retirement, you will receive a guaranteed monthly benefit for your lifetime. Your benefit is based on your years of service credit and the pay you’ve earned.

Service credit years (SCY) The number of years you are credited for working. 

Average Final Compensation (AFC) The average of your highest consecutive 60 months earnings, wherever they are in your service. 

1% benefit formula

The formula used to calculate your defined benefit retirement is:

1% x SCY x AFC = monthly benefit


If you worked full time every month for 15 years and your average monthly pay for your highest consecutive five years was $4,000, your monthly benefit would be $600.

1% x 15 SCY x $4,000 AFC = $600 monthly benefit

Does my defined benefit increase in retirement?
Yes, there is a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) on the defined benefit portion of Plan 3. Your amount will be adjusted on July 1 of every year following your first full year of retirement. Your monthly benefit will be increased up to 3% per year based on the Consumer Price Index.
Can the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) end?
Yes, it is possible. Plan 3 is subject to legislative changes. A bill could be introduced to eliminate the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), but it would need to be passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor.
If I delay receiving my defined benefit payment, do I get more?
It is possible. If you leave service before age 65 and have 20 or more service credit years, your defined benefit amount will increase by approximately 3% annually until you start receiving your payment or reach age 65, whichever is sooner.
Does my employer match what I put into Plan 3?
No, your employer contributes exclusively to the defined benefit side of Plan 3. Those contributions will fund a guaranteed monthly benefit for the rest of your life. The amount they contribute will fluctuate based on actuarial needs. They are not matching funds, and you cannot withdraw them if you leave public service prior to the time when you are eligible to receive the guaranteed monthly benefit (when you retire).
Where can I find my employer's contributions?
Your employer's contributions are visible on your employee earnings statement. Employer contributions are not visible in your online account or your quarterly statement.

Retirement age and service requirements

To receive your defined benefit pension, you must meet age and service credit requirements. The defined contribution portion of your account that you fund has no age or service requirements.

Defined benefit retirement

Retirement with a full benefit: Age 65. If you have at least 10 years of service credit and you’re age 65, you can retire with a full benefit. If you have at least five years of service credit, you can retire at age 65 with a full benefit if you earned at least one of your five years of service credit after age 44.

If you transferred from Plan 2, your requirements might vary. See Plan 3 January Transfer Opportunity.

Early retirement with a reduced benefit: Ages 55 to 64 with at least 10 years of service credit. If you retire early, your monthly benefit is reduced to reflect that you will receive it for a longer period of time. The earlier you retire, the larger the reduction.

The amount of your reduction depends on the amount of service credit you have AND how much younger than 65 you are when you retire.

There is less of a benefit reduction for early retirement if you have 30 or more years of service credit and you're age 62 to 64. Your benefit will be reduced by 5% for each year (prorated monthly) before you turn age 65. Again, the earlier you retire, the larger the reduction.

For more information about early retirement, see Thinking About Retiring Early?

Where do I find info about my service credit years?
View your service credit history through online account access.
Do I stop earning service credit after I've worked 30 years?
No. In Plan 3 you earn service credit for each year of employment regardless of your age or years of service.

Plan 3 calculators

These calculators can provide retirement benefit estimates as well as guidance for your financial and retirement planning process. Use the following tools to help determine your next steps toward saving for your retirement.

Plan 3 Defined Contribution Disbursement Schedule Create an estimate of Plan 3 deferred compensation payments following separation from service that considers various payout options and assumed rates of investment return.

Plan 3 TAP Annuity Estimator Calculate the fixed payment stream you can receive through the TAP annuity program offered by the state of Washington. You must have a minimum of $25,000 in your Plan 3 account for the TAP annuity program. Easily determine your monthly retirement benefit from the WSIB TAP annuity.

Plan 3 Take Home Pay Calculator See how the net effect on your take-home pay will be impacted when considering the various Plan 3 contribution rate options.

Plan 3 Retirement Savings Calculate the monthly savings you should be setting aside today to reach your retirement income goals.

Life Expectancy Approximate your life expectancy based upon a given age. This tool uses data from the IRS.

Retirement Planner Within a few minutes of using this tool, you can determine if you're on track to fund the expenses you think you'll have in retirement.

More calculators Gain access to additional calculators when you log on using your DRS online account access.


Investments are a big part of your plan. See more about Plan 3 investments and find out how your contributions work to build your retirement savings. go there


The Plan 3 withdrawals section contains information on withdrawing Plan 3 funds before, during and after retirement. Discover opportunities to increase your payment at retirement. See your installment and survivorship options. go there

Plan 3 annuities

An annuity provides a guaranteed payment for the rest of your life, regardless of stock market performance. Plan 3 has unique annuity opportunities with a range of options for you to choose from. See the withdrawals section for more information about annuities. go there

Health care coverage

This section applies to employees receiving health insurance through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). We also provide resources for VEBA.

Not all DRS employers participate in the PEBB program. Contact your employer to verify your health insurance provider. You can also contact PEBB by calling 360-725-0440 or 800-200-1004.

To qualify, you must elect coverage within 60 days of termination. As long as you meet the age and service requirements of the plan (age 55 or older with 10 or more years of service credit), you can delay receiving your retirement benefit and still be eligible for PEBB coverage.

More resources

Managing your account

With online account access, you can make Plan 3 account changes 24/7. Log in through DRS or access your account through the record keeper website.

Access your account to:

  • View your Plan 3 balance
  • Change your investment selections
  • Transfer account balances between investment options
  • See fund performance

Two ways to log in

There are two ways to access your Plan 3 defined contribution (investment) account information. Through DRS online account access and through the Empower record keeper site. DRS recommends you use online account access because this gives you access to account information from both parts of your Plan 3 account, including the defined benefit pension portion, where you can view information like your service credit history. To find out more about the difference, visit the log in page to see your options.

How do I change my address?

Retirees, inactive members, beneficiaries and legal-order payees: You can update your address from your online retirement account. Just select “Address” from the welcome screen. If you do not have an online account, or you need to update your name, fill out and send in a printed form as well as a copy of documentation showing the change.

Active members: Update your name or address through your employer. That new information will soon appear in your online retirement account.

How do I change my email address?
Update your email address through DRS online account access. Go to Manage My Account > Member Information > email. Then enter your email address and select save. Or contact DRS at 360-664-7000 or 800-547-6657.
How do I change my account to my married name?
Before you retire, be sure to change your name through your employer and complete the Name/Address Change form. If you are already retired, you only need to fill out the form.
I emailed a question and was told to call. Why can't you email your response?
For security reasons, we are unable to provide specific account information or make changes to your account and account profile (including email addresses) through email requests. To protect the security of your account data, you must call the Plan 3 Customer Services team to verify your identity in order to provide assistance. Call 888-327-5596, Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm (Pacific Time).

Quarterly statements

Your Plan 3/DCP statement helps you track your Washington State Department of Retirement Systems account contributions, investment option performance and account activity over time. After each quarter you’ll receive a statement with performance information for Plan 3 and DCP. Depending on your paper preference, you could receive a mailed or electronic copy. Here is a brief guide to your statement.

Quarters are divided into the following months:

  • First: January through March
  • Second: April through June
  • Third: July through September
  • Fourth: October through December

Your statement could include information for more than one plan, depending on your situation. Quarterly statements are released within two months of the quarter-end. The actual date depends on how the investment funds in your portfolio are assessed (daily or monthly).

Will my quarterly statement show everything I have in Plan 3?
No. Your Plan 3 statement represents only the defined contribution (investment) part. You will not receive a defined benefit (pension) statement. To help you estimate your defined benefit, view your service credit years online and plug the information into the Plan 3 defined benefit formula.
This graphic represents the Plan 3 or DCP statement you recieve quarterly.
  • 1. What time period does the statement cover?
    See the start and end dates for the statement period here.
  • 2. What is my total balance?
    View your total account balance as of the closing date of the statement period. This balance includes any contributions, withdrawals and gains or losses in your investments. If you have multiple accounts, the total balance is the combined balance for those accounts. (The balance shown here does not include WSIB accounts. WSIB statements are mailed separately.)
  • 3. Where can I go for help?
    This section contains contact information for questions about your statement or investment account.
  • 4. What is my rate of return?
    See the percentage change in your account during the statement period and for the year so far, including an explanation of how your rate of return is calculated.
  • 5. What might my monthly income be at retirement?
    View the pre-tax monthly income your account could provide you when you retire. The projection is based on your current saving level and several other assumptions outlined at the end of the statement. Find a more in-depth projection on your Retirement Income Control Panel by logging in to your account.
  • 6. How has my account changed?
    See the change in your account value due to your contributions, withdrawals and the performance of your investment choices during the statement period.
  • 7. How is my account invested?
    See how the value of each investment changed during the statement period due to your deposits, changes in value from market performance and other account activity.
  • 8. How will my future contributions be invested?
    View a breakdown of your future contributions by percentage.
  • 9. How is my account being funded?
    See how your account has been funded through your contributions and any investment dividends or changes in value. This section also includes any transfer and withdrawal activity.
  • 10. How has my account changed over time?
    View year-to-date transactions in your account, including any contributions, withdrawals and gains or losses in your investments since Empower began servicing your account.
  • 11. What activity took place this period?
    View a summary of your total deposits and payroll contributions for the statement period.
  • 12. Who are my beneficiaries?
    DCP participants, view the beneficiaries you chose for your DCP account. Plan 3 members can view beneficiaries through online account access.
  • 13. How have my unit/share values changed?
    See all investments offered and the change in value for the individual shares of your investment options over the statement period. Also view changes in the number of shares in your account due to new deposits and other account activity.
  • 14. How is my retirement income projection calculated?
    See more information about the retirement income projection in Section 5. Also view some of the assumptions used to calculate your individual projection.

Downloading your account activity

You can download your Plan 3 account activity to Quicken or Microsoft Money.

  1. Log into your online account and go to Plan 3.
  2. Select the Account History tile.
  3. Select the Transaction History option.
  4. Choose either Quicken OFX or Microsoft Money QIF.
  5. Select a statement period and the Download Now button. Save the file to your computer.
  6. Open Quicken or Microsoft Money and follow the instructions to import the file.


Plan 3 adheres to administrative codes or rules adopted by Washington agencies. Plan 3 has its own section in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). go there


For more information about Plan 3, or assistance with your account, contact us:

Plan 3 defined contribution (the account you contribute to)



Plan 3 defined benefit (the account your employer contributes to)

Contact DRS