Teachers Get Schooled in Financial Education

So . . . Why does a $190 billion, 103-year-old public pension fund especially need to watch its spelling and grammar on member communication materials? Because it represents 896,000 public school educators throughout California. CalSTRS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, shared their financial education and retirement security story with the International Foundation and yes, communicating with their unique population of members is a key element in that story.

Teachers Get Schooled in Financial Education
Jack Ehnes is the CEO of CalSTRS, the largest teacher pension organization in the world (and second largest U.S. public pension fund). Jack shared that CalSTRS is unique for a couple of reasons:

  1. CalSTRS members do not pay into Social Security, so they will not receive Social Security benefits for their CalSTRS-covered position.
  2. 72% female population (females tend to live longer than males)
  3. Every single member has a college degree and most have a master’s degree.
  4. The Average teacher is 63 when she/he retires.

In order to dig deep and discover how they can best serve their CalSTRS members, Jack and his team administer an annual survey. From the most recent member survey report, 80% of their members reported they prefer financial/retirement education to come right from people at CalSTRS, not a paid advisor.

With six full-time officers throughout California, CalSTRS works with their members face-to-face in their journey to the finish line of retirement. Their retirement readiness program focuses on three steps: Saving for your future, planning for your future and protecting your future—complementing different needs based on stages of life.

[Public Sector Benefits Institute—February 20-22, 2017]

Over the past year, CalSTRS conducted 16,500 individual and 10,122 group sessions, all across California, to provide retirement information and support.

In addition to face-to-face education, CalSTRS encourages members to use their secure website for more educational tools and information. The fund uses social media, especially Facebook, to increase member interaction with each other and CalSTRS. Jack mentioned their Facebook page’s latest addition—the “Ask Jack” section, where many teachers write questions for him to answer.

[Certificate in Public Sector Benefits Administration—February 27-March 4, 2017]

According to their most recent member survey report, 84% of members said their retirement experience has either met or exceeded their expectations, a nod to the financial/retirement preparation through effective communication from CalSTRS.

Visit our financial education and retirement security page to watch the full CalSTRS case study from Jack. You can also read a Benefits Magazine article on CalSTRS and view more financial education and retirement-based case studies here.

P.S. This is really fun—CalSTRS turned 100 years old in 2013. To celebrate, they held a birthday party for everyone who was 100 years old at the time. Almost 400 people got invitations out of the 896,000 people in the fund.

Anne Killian
Communications Associate at the International Foundation