This article examines the pattern of incentives for work versus retirement in six state teacher pension systems. We do this by examining the annual accrual of pension wealth from an additional year of work over a teacher's career. Accrual of wealth is highly nonlinear and heavily loaded at arbitrary years that would normally be considered mid-career. One typical pattern exhibits low accrual in early years, accelerating in the mid- to late fifties, followed by dramatic decline or even negative returns in years that are relatively young for retirement. Key factors in the defined benefit formulas that drive such patterns are identified along with likely consequences for employee behavior. The authors examine efficiency and equity consequences of these systems as well as options for reform.

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