When analyzing the scores for the Retirement Security Report, we noticed an anomaly in the results that at first looked like an error. Scores for the same retirement plan with the same benefit provisions were not the same across all occupations. We looked into the details and realized that salary growth assumptions and payroll accrual patterns can matter meaningfully to being on a path to retirement income security.
Consider the following comparison, averaged across all worker types:
- South Carolina SCRS DC Plan Teachers: 98.4% of possible RSR points
- South Carolina SCRS DC Plan General: 95.2% of possible RSR points
The benefit provisions for the SCRS defined contribution plan (called the Optional Retirement System) are exactly the same for teachers as they are for city workers and state agency employees that qualify for the same benefit design. Similarly, teachers and non-classroom public school employees in Michigan also have access to the same benefit design elements.
The primary difference for different scores within the same state’s retirement plan is because of different salary growth assumptions. In South Carolina, the assumptions about the rate of growth for employees classified as “General” is slightly better than for “Teachers.”
The takeaway here is not that “General” employees will get higher benefits. Only that the rate of growth of their average wages improves better from the starting salary. For example, if the average pay increased from $25,000 at age 25 to $50,000 at age 50, that would be a 100% increase, and is larger percentage increase than $32,000 to $55,000 over the same time frame.