Retirement guide for new hires

Did you know that you started earning a pension benefit when you were hired into public service in Washington state?

If you didn’t know until just now, we understand. A new job can be overwhelming – loads of information is served up to you all at once. You may have overlooked, or not had time to absorb the information your employer gave you about retirement benefits through DRS. But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Just follow this beginner’s retirement guide to help you understand your benefits and the decisions you need to make as a new hire.

Enroll in a plan

For some plans, you are automatically enrolled by your employer. This is often the case when a plan only has one active plan option at a time. If you don’t see your plan listed here, you can skip this section.

Public employees, teachers and school employees: PERS, TRS or SERS member? If so, you have 90 days to choose a retirement plan. The Plan Choice section can help you decide which plan is right for you.

Español (Spanish)

Law enforcement, firefighters, Washington State Patrol: LEOFF and WSPRS members can complete this enrollment form.

Higher education employees: If you are eligible for HERP, see your Plan 3 options.

Answers to the questions new hires ask most often

System, plan, what?

DRS administers 15 different retirement plans to public service members throughout Washington. Each plan uses system and plan number labels. You don’t need to memorize them all, but knowing about them will help you navigate the DRS website in the years to come. Why does this matter? It’s good to know which plan and system you are in, so you’ll know immediately if a new rule or piece of legislation applies to you. Each system is a type of employment covered by the plan. Here are all the systems:

  • Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS)
  • Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS)
  • School Employees’ Retirement System (SERS)
  • Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System (LEOFF)
  • Washington State Patrol Retirement System (WSPRS)
  • Public Safety Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS)

In addition to systems, each DRS retirement plan is labeled with a plan number: 1, 2 or 3. Each number represents different rules and plan structures. For example, Plan 2 is always a pension plan that you and your employer both contribute to. Plan 3 is always a pension program your employer funds and a separate investment program you fund. Plan 1 is closed.

What about DCP?

Deferred Compensation Program is not actually a plan or system, but it is a separate voluntary savings program administered by DRS. If your employer doesn’t offer Washington’s DCP, ask about other additional retirement savings programs you can enroll in to increase your income in retirement.

How do I set up my DRS online account?

After receiving your first paycheck from your employer, you can set up access and view your account information online. More about online accounts.

Why was I enrolled in DCP? How do I opt out?

State agencies, higher educations and a few additional public employers have DCP automatic enrollment for new hires. Read more about automatic enrollment, including instructions for how to modify or opt out of your enrollment.

Do I have to contribute to a retirement plan?

Yes. A retirement plan is a required part of the benefits package for Washington public service employees. Both Plan 2 and Plan 3 offer a lifetime pension benefit. The pension amount depends on how long you work in public service and your salary.

Can I change my contribution rate in Plan 2 or Plan 3?

Plan 2: No. Your contribution rate is determined by the state Pension Funding Council. The rate can change every two years. See the most recent rates.

Plan 3: You can only change your contribution rate if you change employers. You select (or default into) a rate when you first enroll in your plan. See all Plan 3 rates.

How do I add a beneficiary?

In the event of your death, DRS needs to know where to send your retirement account balance. Choose your beneficiaries now. Make this choice through your online account once you are enrolled in a plan or complete a paper form.

More resources

Podcast episodes for new hires:

Additional podcasts covering many other retirement topics are available on the Fund Your Future with DRS webpage.

Additional information

View a recorded webinar on choosing a plan, or see all available webinars.

Every plan has a guide page. Read about your plan.

About – DRS serves current and former public employees in 15 different retirement plans.

Updates – Get email or text news from DRS. On topics you choose.

DRS has a glossary, available anytime you need it.

Recent news

Subscribe for more DRS news

More subscription options

Back to Top