When you start working at certain TRS institutions (most commonly the teaching hospitals.) you have a one time irrevocable choice to either:
Enroll in the ORP
Enroll in the TRS Pension Plan
If you’re here it is because you either enrolled in ORP or you are thinking about it. Other countries have the ORP, they just call it the superannuation fund. You will have to direct your own investments, and you will bear all the risk for that performance.
The benefit is clear. You can make more money with ORP than your can with TRS.
The downside is also clear - if you spend it or don’t earn that much with it, tough cookies you are on your own.
If you are coming to TRS/ORP from another career the ORP can be awesome for you especially if you expect a significant social security benefit. If you are starting your career at a TRS/ORP institution ORP can be awesome for you, because you have more time to clean up any mistakes.
The advantages of being able to invest your own money your way for an ORP participant become clear in chart form:
When you make the election to participate in ORP you are forgoing guaranteed income and a pension. It is a very serious choice, based on your age, career mobility, and your ability to handle investment risk, and your goals.
Our one bit of editorializing: If you are already in ORP, then treat the investments in ORP as if it is all you will have to live on in retirement. This money needs to last your lifetime. Care for it, nurture it, and leave it alone (with very few exceptions) until it is needed.