Utah Foundation’s newest report, Another Bite at the Apple: Comparing Teacher Retirement Plans, aims to further flesh out the compensation picture, delving into teacher retirement in Utah. The report makes comparisons between Utah and the other Mountain States, showing differences in generosity and other features.
Key findings of the report include:
In Utah, teacher retirement benefits are provided as part of the Utah Retirement System, which underwent major changes in 2011 that decreased investment risk and public cost. The changes also reduced the generosity of the plan for teachers.
The old pension plan was much more beneficial to career teachers compared to the new teacher retirement plan, which is more suitable to teachers who may switch careers.
The new teacher retirement plan’s costs are roughly double the actual invested benefit per new teacher. The other half is going toward paying down the unfunded liabilities that the Utah Retirement System accrued in the past.
Utah’s teacher retirement offerings are different from other Mountain States in that Utah’s newer plan types include an option that is similar to the standard private sector model.
While plan benefits may be lower in Utah than in neighboring Mountain States, the plans in the other seven states require teachers to provide between 7% and 15% of their salaries to participate. Utah’s teachers are not required to contribute to their retirement.
Under the old retirement plan there was no required employee contribution. Likewise, the new plan currently has no required employee contribution – though the law allows for one as necessary to keep the Utah Retirement System adequately funded.
Utah employers’ contributions into the Utah Retirement System are 10% of employee salaries. Among the Mountain States, only Wyoming has a lower employer contribution rate.
Of the eight Mountain States, only Idaho has a better-funded retirement system than Utah. Additionally, Utah’s level of funding is based on relatively conservative investment assumptions.