13 Nov 2015

TRS Releases Pension Fund Valuation, Reports on Status of TRS-Care

The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) released its annual valuation of the pension trust fund yesterday. The nation’s sixth largest pension fund presently has $128.5 billion held in trust for over 350,000 Texas public education retirees and 1,000,000 pre-retirees. This figure is down from $132.7 billion August 2014. Additionally, TRS reported that the fund earned a return of -0.3% for FY 2015.

The period of time to amortize the fund’s unfunded liabilities has grown from 29.8 years in 2013 to 33.3 years. This means that at this moment in time, the pension fund is not actuarially sound by state law. In order to meet this threshold, the fund must be able to pay off all unfunded liabilities within a 31-year time period.

Many of our members may be wondering what happened. The pension fund was considered actuarially sound in 2013, allowing for a cost-of-living increase for 200,000 TRS retirees. Now, despite having a funded ratio of 80.2%, the fund is not capable of providing a COLA to retirees at this time.

As you may recall, in 2013 TRS predicted that the unfunded liabilities would continue to grow before starting to decrease again and move towards full funding. This present downturn is expected and following a stable path, although some factors are contributing to this growth in unfunded liabilities more quickly than originally anticipated.

This includes slower than expected investment returns for FY 2015, and the adoption of a new mortality assumption. This new assumption reflects the increased life expectancy of all TRS members, including current active school personnel. It is also important to note that the very volatile markets of 2015 have shifted investment returns wildly, from a 16% overall investment return in 2014 to a -0.3% this year.

TRS, in its actuarial assessment, must also take into account changing rates of inflation and the decrease in payroll growth for active personnel. Essentially, these factors, combined with the ones mentioned above, increased the funding period by five years. However, certain provisions established in SB 1458 will have a positive benefit on the fund in a few more years.

The figures provided yesterday assume that the state will continue to provide the level of funding to the system as established with the passage of Senate Bill 1458 in 2013 during the 83rd Legislative Session. That means TRS expects the state contribution rate to be 6.8% of active educator payroll, the school district rate to be 1.5%, and the active employee rate to be 7.7%. TRS also assumes an overall annual investment return of 8%.

TRS also discussed the probability of future COLAs for retirees. Although this will depend upon many factors, the bottom line is that there must be an increase in revenue to the fund to support a raise in benefits. The revenue could come from increased contributions or higher investment returns, for example. Overall, all it would take is a 1% increase in contributions to get the TRS pension fund back to being actuarially sound by state law.

While it is too early to predict what the Legislature might do to help retirees during the 85th Legislative Session in 2017, it is not too early for TRTA members to begin preparing! Today’s news was not what TRTA or its members had hoped for, but it is not the end of the line, nor is it a reflection of the fund’s overall performance or its future.

Our friends in the Texas Legislature are interested in finding ways to help retirees, as is evidenced by the attendance of Representative Phil Stephenson (R, District 85) at the valuation meeting, who asked many questions about the fund’s value and its impact on retirees. TRTA would like to thank all of the legislative staff members who attended yesterday’s meeting.

Your pension fund is still one of the strongest in the nation. The TRS pension fund has a pathway to solvency that is being followed, and will lead to 100% full funding and actuarial soundness. TRS works diligently every day to achieve this goal for all of its participants. The fund is being managed appropriately, with the utmost concern for the retirement security of all TRS retirees and pre-retirees.

Together, TRTA and its members have worked for years with legislators on both sides of the aisle to provide TRS retirees with a stable, reliable, lifetime retirement income. TRTA will continue advocating for the TRS pension fund and imploring the Legislature to support our hardworking school personnel.

Next week, TRTA will review the interim charges issued by Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus. These recently created charges include asking legislators to consider downturns in the market and how current retirees who may be in financial need may be able to have some relief.

TRS-Care Update

The news about TRS-Care that we received yesterday, as expected, is not good. As you know, this legislative session, TRTA members fought to receive $768 million in extra funding to help shore up the fund temporarily and prevent skyrocketing premium increases.

Essentially, we received a two-year reprieve that kept TRS-Care afloat and protected participants’ pocketbooks; but TRS-Care continues to deteriorate financially at an alarming rate. TRTA members will have to fight again in 2017 to protect the health insurance program.

TRS-Care’s projected 2018 funding shortfall is more than $700 million. This figure will grow to an astounding $1.7 billion by FY 2019 if nothing is done to protect the program and its participants! By 2020, this shortfall will rise to $2.9 billion!

We know that the $768 million provided by the Legislature was a tremendous boon to TRS-Care and a huge win for TRTA members, but we also know that it was not intended to be a permanent solution.

Now, we must protect the program for the long term, because it is vital to our retirees’ well-being and financial security! TRS-Care’s enrollment is expected to grow from its current 251,758 participants to 259,578 by 2016. We have more lives every day that need to be covered by TRS-Care!

This issue is important, and we need and value your participation in every step of this process! The next step is engaging with the TRS-Care Study Group that was established by the Legislature through Senate Bill 1940.

2016 is a non-legislative year, but this is when the TRS-Care study group will meet and make decisions about the future of the program. The study group, TRTA, our members and all stakeholders impacted by TRS-Care need to be involved and work together to save this program for all current and future public education retirees.

Earlier this fall, TRTA shared the names of the TRS-Care Study Group House members appointed by the Speaker. As you may recall, those Representatives assigned to study long-term solutions for the TRS-Care retiree health insurance program are: Representative Dan Flynn, Co-Chair; Representative Trent Ashby; and Representative Justin Rodriguez.

We are still awaiting the announcement of who will be appointed by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick from the Texas Senate to serve on this vital committee.

As we approach the holiday season, it is easy to become less involved in legislative activity and more focused on family and friends. TRTA will continue to monitor the progress of the TRS-Care study group and report any news to our members immediately.

Please continue reading and sharing the Inside Line throughout November and December!

Thank You

Protecting your retirement benefits is one of TRTA’s top priorities, and your participation makes all of difference! Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to stay informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Read More
10 Nov 2015

Texas Retired Teachers Foundation’s “A Helping Hand” Program in Action

Jane Pickett’s eyes come alive when she’s talking about jump rope. Her voice steadies and her confidence soars as she explains the techniques and intricacies involved in a sport that she coached for 25 years.

Since she was four years old, Pickett knew that she wanted to teach physical education, and after she grew up, she was so entwined with the education of jump rope that she earned the title of “The Grandmother of Jump Rope.”

Pickett’s greatest joy during her teaching career was seeing her children succeed at jump rope and in school.

“I had kids that traveled to Iceland, Canada, Japan, all over Europe, Guatemala and everywhere in the United States. These kids got quite an education through jump rope,” Pickett said. “It was wonderful. You felt like you really did have an impact just by offering the opportunity.”

However, Pickett’s time as a coach and a teacher was cut short as her body began to fail her. She retired from teaching elementary jump rope in 1995. Many years later, Pickett faced a difficult medical decision. Her teeth were experiencing a variety of issues, and after consulting specialists in Boerne and San Antonio, Pickett discovered that the procedures to fix her dental issues amounted to $7,000. If Pickett did not receive the necessary dental operations, she risked losing her teeth.

As a retired schoolteacher on disability, Pickett did not have the money to cover these costs. She was in dire straights when she attended a Hill Country Retired School Employees Association (HCRSEA) meeting. Marjorie Morgan, HCRSEA’s Foundation Representative, delivered a talk about the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) and the “A Helping Hand” program at the meeting. “A Helping Hand” provides funding to retired educators experiencing critical financial emergencies.

“I had never in my life heard of Helping Hands,” said Pickett.

Pickett filed a request for assistance through “A Helping Hand” for $1,000. She received $1,500 from TRTF. With the help of a similar program in her Presbyterian Church, Pickett was able to pay for her dental surgeries.

“It was pretty overwhelming. You don’t think once you retire, and you’re pretty much out of the picture, that anybody is thinking about you or cares about you,” Pickett said. “It was like God had sent me a tremendous blessing. It took a lot of pressure off.”

“A Helping Hand” has a tangible impact on its recipients, allowing them to resolve emergencies that otherwise could have left them homeless, unable to buy food, or left with no resources to pay for essential medical services.

More than 30% of public education retirees in Texas earn less than $1000 per month through their monthly TRS annuity. Your donations to this vital program make a huge difference in the quality of life for many retirees across the state!

Since its inception, TRTF has provided more than $200,000 to educators of the past, present and future, including more than $80,000 to retirees in dire financial need through “A Helping Hand.”

Please help us continue TRTF’s good works by donating to “A Helping Hand.” You can donate online here or over the phone by calling 1.800.880.1650.

To learn more about “A Helping Hand” or to apply for assistance, send an email to


Thank you for all that you do to support the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation and the many teachers, students and retirees whose lives are changed every day by your generosity!

Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Read More
03 Nov 2015

TRTF Classroom Assistance Grants Enabling Educators’ Successes

As each class ends, Teresa Carroll has her students form a line. She gives each child a hug, wishes them well and sends them on their way.

Carroll doesn’t get to see her students as often as she would like or for as long as she would like, but she makes the best of her circumstances by exuding energy in each facet of her teaching.

Carroll is a math interventionist at Williams Elementary, a Title I school in Georgetown. She has held her current position for seven years, and those years of experience have allowed her to master her craft. She helps poverty stricken students grasp the fundamental math concepts necessary to be successful in life.

Carroll receives the students who are struggling the most with math, and uses her 45-minute class three times a week to improve the students’ perceptions about math and about themselves.

“There’s a quote outside my door that I talk about every year with my kids, and it says something like, ‘Good mathematics is not about how many answers you know, but it’s about how you act when you don’t know,’” said Carroll.

Many of Carroll’s students already have started to give up on themselves when they first come to her classroom. Carroll describes their psyche as, “‘Oh I can’t do it, so why am I going to try?’”

To combat these negative feelings, Carroll brings the best out in her students by engaging them in fun, easy-to-use games and avoids doling out spreadsheets.

“I’ve had to teach them that it’s okay to fail and that failure is just a learning tool that we’re going to use to improve and get better,” Carroll said.

According to the Texas Tribune, 69 percent of students at Williams Elementary are considered economically disadvantaged.

Carroll recently received help with her classroom materials through a $500 classroom assistance grant from the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF). Carroll used the grant to purchase materials for a program called Do The Math. With the program’s kit, she received six student packets, a teaching packet, a multimedia CD and teaching literature.

Carroll has found the Do The Math fractions kit to be exceptionally worthwhile.

“I have seen them grow tremendously in their conceptual understanding of fractions,” Carroll said. “They gain a much deeper understanding of the concept that I am teaching them.”

Among the successes that Carroll has discovered, she has seen her students stop counting on their fingers and more quickly compute answers in their heads.

“It is extremely rewarding when the light bulb comes on and to see when they suddenly get it,” Carroll said.

Carroll feels that the classroom assistance grant was a boon to her teaching, and she feels a deep appreciation for TRTF’s charitable works.

“If you have the capability and the ability to donate to the Foundation, it is an amazing gift that you can give to somebody,” Carroll said. “It changes lives.”

TRTF delivered 15 $500 classroom assistance grants in 2015, and the organization hopes to match that amount next year, too. You can submit a donation online here or call 1.800.880.1650 to donate over the phone. Members of TRTA also received a donation card and envelope in their third quarter issue of The VOICE, which they can use to submit donations by mail.

Help celebrate TRTF’s Foundation Month by donating to one or more of its four charitable programs: “A Helping Hand,” Classroom Assistance Grants, Student Scholarships, and the Legacy Campaign.

Thank You

Thank you for all that you do to support the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation and the many teachers, students and retirees whose lives are changed every day by your generosity! Since 2008, TRTF has given more than $200,000 to educators of the past, present and future. You can donate to TRTF here or visit to learn more.

Be sure to stay tuned to our other digital mediums to keep informed on all the latest news and updates. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Read More