MassOpenBooks: A Look at Annual Pension Trends

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In 2018, the Commonwealth provided $5.2 Billion in pension benefits to retirees in the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System (MTRS) and Massachusetts State Employees’ Retirement System (MSERS). Of this amount, 42.6 percent went to the MSERS and 57.4 percent went to the MTRS. The public can sort through this pension data on MassOpenBooks, Pioneer Institute’s government transparency tool.

The yearly change section of MassOpenBooks analyzes the pension data by providing the percent change since 2011. Below are charts that illustrate the average pension by year for MSERS and MTRS.

In 2014, the average annual pension in the MSERS was $32,182. By 2018, it was $37,263, a 15.8 percent increase. During this time, there was a 27.5 percent increase in the total annual pensions from approximately $1.74 billion in 2014 to $2.22 billion in 2018. From 2014 to 2018, the number of retirees grew much more slowly, at 10.1 percent.

MTRS pensions reflect a similar, if less extreme, trend.  There was a 6.3 percent rise in the average annual pensions from $43,433 in 2014 to $46,158 in 2018. Overall, there was a 16.8 percent jump in the total annual pension amount during the five years and only a 9.94 percent increase in the number of retirees.

From 2014 to 2018, the average MTRS annual pension was approximately $9,803 more than the average MSERS pension. However, MSERS pensions increased much more quickly than MTRS pensions during that time. The average pensions for both the MSERS and MTRS have risen more quickly than the increase in their respective retirement pools. 

Significant annual pension increases are a concerning trend in light of large unfunded pension liabilities. Through MassOpenBooks, the public can track this data and better hold government officials accountable.


Ana Rijal is a Wellesley Freedom Project intern for Pioneer Institute. She is a rising junior studying Psychology and Philosophy.