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A Brief History of the ASRS As We Turn 65!

This year, the ASRS will celebrate its 65th Anniversary.

In the 21st session of the Arizona State Legislature, Governor Howard Pyle signed the bill that created the ASRS as of July 1st, 1953 as a pension plan for employees of state and municipal government.

The first public pension in Arizona, however, was issued in 1912, the year Arizona entered statehood. It was granted to a teacher, in the amount of $50 a month ($600 a year). In 1955, the teacher’s pension plan and the ASRS merged, creating a statewide retirement system.

According to the very first ASRS Annual Report, when the ASRS was created it had a starting membership of 5,209. That year, a total of 135 workers retired, split among 106 men and 29 women.  The average age at retirement that year was 72, and the pension amounts ranged from just over $700 to a little over $1,000 – a year.

In 1971, the ASRS replaced its defined contribution ‘system,’ with the defined benefit plan that is in place today, and also adding retiree health insurance and long term disability programs in the late 1980’s. 

65 years later, the ASRS has more than a half-million members, including nearly 150,000 retirees receiving a lifetime monthly benefit, which, by the way, now averages about $20,000 a year. While it’s interesting to look back at historical numbers like these, it is important to recognize that the mission of the ASRS hasn’t really changed.

Today, as in 1953, the ASRS remains committed providing Arizona’s educators and employees of state and municipal governments with a secure retirement income stream for their lifetime.

We have come a long way since that first year – when the fund totaled about $6 million.  Today, the ASRS manages a trust fund of more than $40 billion. We are proud of our past, and look forward to the next 65 years with a continued focus on serving our members.

Written by Dave Cannella, Media Relations

Published in the April 2018 digital newsletter "Expanding Your Financial Horizons"

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