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Understanding the increase in teacher retirements

Pension Sense blog | February 10, 2021

piggy banks with retirement written on chalkboard in background

CalSTRS recently noticed a significant increase in teacher retirements. In the second half of 2020, the number of retirements (3,202) increased 26% over the same period in 2019.

We reached out to most of those members who retired and posed two questions. This is a new survey and the questions were sent to members during the current fiscal year:

  • Did you decide to retire earlier than planned?
  • If so, what contributed to your decision to retire earlier than planned?

We received more than 500 survey responses and learned that 62% of those surveyed retired earlier than planned. Those respondents then selected as many reasons as they wished on why they decided to retire. Here are the top three responses:

  • 56%: Challenges of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 35%: Did not want to continue working remotely.
  • 35%: Did not want to risk exposure to COVID-19.

The decision to retire can be affected by a number of factors like age, economic conditions and work conditions. Fluctuations, both up and down, in the number of retirements are normal. Also normal are unusually high retirements levels during unprecedented times.

The largest number of CalSTRS service retirements was in fiscal year 2009–10. California was experiencing a severe recession following the global financial crisis of 2008 and more than 16,000 members filed for retirement.

As a result of the pandemic, we are poised to experience our second highest year of retirements. If current trends continue, the total for 2020–21 will be just shy of 16,000.

We expect that once the current situation has stabilized, though, the number of retirements should go down and be lower than expected for a few years.

As always, educators should not worry. We will continue to pay your retirement benefits on time and in full.