NHRS History

In 1967, RSA 100-A was enacted, establishing the New Hampshire Retirement System as a contributory, public employee defined benefit plan.

Prior to the creation of NHRS, there were separate retirement systems for each of the four member groups: Firefighters (established in 1939), Police (1942), Employees (1945), and Teachers (1950).

Members of these retirement systems had the option of remaining with their original system, or joining the newly established New Hampshire Retirement System. Each member was sent a letter explaining how benefits were calculated under their present system compared to the new system, and what the different calculations looked like.

NHRS began as a division of the NH Department of Treasury. State Treasurer Robert Flanders asked Harry Descoteau, the state’s first Assistant State Treasurer, to assume the responsibility of day-to-day NHRS management.

Descoteau successfully led and grew the young NHRS, and its $98 million pension fund. In 1977, the Legislature made NHRS its own entity, separate of the Treasury.  It was then that Descoteau became the retirement system’s first Executive Secretary, where he served NHRS for many years until his death in 1999.

In a letter written on behalf of the retirement system’s 25th anniversary in 1992, Descoteau remembers NHRS’ humble beginnings, noting that:

“…there were ten of us working in Room 100 of the State House. As I remember it, each of us needed a good, strong writing hand and much patience, because almost everything was done manually back then. Especially intriguing was the Group I retirement benefit calculation. The process involved as many steps as the member had years of credited service… 30 steps in the case of the 30-year member, for example. Even while using the calculator, the process was tedious. This was when the Group I benefit was integrated with Social Security. There is no doubt in my mind that those calculation efforts honed our math skills as well as provided us with a very detailed knowledge of the System.”

In its first year, NHRS had a total of 12,000 active members and 36 pension recipients. A lot has changed since 1967, and NHRS continues to grow in membership and trust fund assets.

In 2017, NHRS celebrated its 50th anniversary. To celebrate, members and retirees sent in photos showcasing their service to New Hampshire through the years. These photos are archived in our Photo Gallery, which can be access from this page. A 50th anniversary video using many of these photos can be found on our YouTube channel.

For a history of significant NHRS events and legislative changes over the years, see our NHRS Timeline, also accessible from this page.