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Pensions & Retirement Security

Pensions are crucial to attracting and retaining qualified, experienced educators in the profession. And that's worth fighting for.
woman collaborating online

NEA is dedicated to protecting defined-benefit pension plans because these plans provide a predictable, guaranteed benefit. NEA’s Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy department (CBMA) helps members defend their retirement security and advocates for these retirement programs.

Working with our state affiliates and numerous allies, we help organize the resistance to coordinated and well-funded attacks on educators’ retirement security. CBMA also provides support, resources, and consultation to members who serve as pension fund trustees in nearly every state.

When people were hired, money was taken out of their paycheck for their retirement, but the state didn't meet their responsibility. That's an injustice. –Pat Provnick, Retired Educator

Why Pensions Matter

Schools and students succeed when talented young people in search of a challenging career are recruited into the profession, and stay in it for the long term. Pensions help do that.

#1: Pensions provide excellent retirement security.

A traditional pension plan provides retired workers with a steady income stream that is guaranteed for life — unlike 401k plans, which offer no guaranteed benefits and are leaving far too many Americans facing a retirement crisis.

#2: Pensions are good for kids and schools.

A UC Berkeley Labor Center study of public schools in California found that “A large majority of teachers who survive the first few years of teaching, stay until at least early retirement age.” Keeping experienced educators in the classroom improves instruction and creates stable environments for kids. Since pensions help retain workers, they make perfect sense for public education.

#3: Teachers prefer pensions!

Some states provide educators a choice between pensions and 401k-style programs. Once they read over the details, educators choose pensions.

#4: America’s 401K experiment is failing.

Poor returns, high fees to Wall Street, and participants cashing out their funds prematurely — the list of problems with 401Ks goes on, and on. It is tremendously difficult just to know what your proper savings target should be and what level of savings will get you there. 

Pensions measure progress toward funding goals and make adjustments each year in a systematic way, but 401k’s have no such planning mechanism. Simple questions like, “How much annual income could I have with $500,000, what would it be worth in tomorrow’s dollars, and will I run out of money?” become very difficult barriers to sound planning. 

All these problems led directly to our retirement crisis, in which the median 55-to-64 year-old has only put aside about $14,500 for retirement.

Knowing all of this, claims that teachers would be better served in 401k’s are simply not credible.

NEA has created a brief for pension fund trustees to assist in assessing the risk to their funds from private prison holdings. It includes a sample letter with questions to ask about private prison investments, a list of resources, and further reading.

NEA-Retired member Marilyn Warner
Through my local, state, and national involvement on various committees, I get to see the enthusiasm of active educators and hear about the projects they’re working on. It’s important to stay involved and help keep public education alive. As a retiree, I have time to work during the day and help the association.
Quote by: Marilyn Warner, Retired Elementary School Teacher
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.