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Free coffee isn’t worth the buzz

Pension Sense blog | June 15, 2023 | Thomas Lawrence

Trust CalSTRS, not impersonators

What a deal! A chat with a CalSTRS representative about your retirement, potentially lucrative savings plans and unlimited free coffee?

It’s too good to be true. Seriously, it’s too good to be true.

We hear many stories from members who believe they met with a CalSTRS representative when they actually met with an impersonator. An impersonator is not bound by law to protect your best interests financially like we are.

California is an “any vendor state,” meaning employers can offer an infinite number of 403(b) and 457(b) retirement savings products from any company that offers them. These companies may also offer for-profit, costly annuities that may not be a good choice for you and your beneficiaries.

So, if you see a financial presentation at your school or a targeted social media post promoting free retirement planning advice for California’s public educators, be aware those are likely not from CalSTRS.

Even worse, impersonators may present an inaccurate picture of what your retirement benefits will be.

Outreach and sales tactics by these unaffiliated companies are getting more aggressive and sophisticated, including deceiving emails and social media posts; free coffee, pizza or snacks for those who attend an event; and flyers that use the CalSTRS logo illegally. Plus, there are many “boots on the ground” representatives from these companies who have easy access to schools and other employers.

How can you tell the difference? Use this checklist to help properly identify real CalSTRS representatives. They will:

  • Have an email address ending in
  • Provide a CalSTRS ID badge or business card upon request.
  • Have access to your CalSTRS and Pension2 account information without asking you to log in.
  • Never ask you to provide a copy of your Retirement Progress Report or Pension2® (retirement savings plan) statements.
  • Not sell insurance products.
  • Never meet at your home.

Did you schedule an appointment or already meet with someone you think may not be a CalSTRS representative? To verify, call us at 888-394-2060 or email

Since 2014, Voya Financial® has provided recordkeeping services for the CalSTRS Pension2 Program. Pension2 offers the opportunity to invest through tax-deferred payroll deductions in lower-cost, flexible 403(b) and 457(b) plans for additional retirement savings.

Several Voya representatives with an email address work exclusively with CalSTRS Pension2. Find their names and photos on the Verify your CalSTRS representative webpage.

If you do not want to meet with CalSTRS in person but still want guidance regarding your defined contribution 403(b) retirement plan, visit 403bCompare, a state-sponsored website provided by CalSTRS that gives you an easy and transparent way to compare investment fees, performance and services for the 403(b) plans your district offers.

Email or call 888-394-2060 to speak with a Pension2 representative.

For information on how to reach CalSTRS, visit the contact us webpage.