Pensions and the Paraprofessional

Q. If I join the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), what will I get?

Before you retire you get:

  • An income if you have 10 years of credited service should disability force you to retire early.
  • Benefits for your family if you die after 1 year of service.
  • The right to borrow from your TRS account.
  • The right to participate in the TRS tax-deferred annuity program.

After you retire, you get:

  • A pension check every month.
  • Medical, dental and optical benefits to protect your family.
  • If you choose, optional benefits to protect your family after your death.

And from the Social Security system — to which you belong automatically — you get:

  • Social Security payments monthly.
  • Social Security payments to eligible dependents after you die.
  • Social Security payments to eligible dependents should you become disabled. NOTE: This is just a brief outline. Some restrictions may apply. See the UFT’s Tier IV Pension Handbook for details.

Q. How much will I get?

It depends on how much you earned and how long you’ve worked when you retire. A UFT pension consultant can help you estimate your benefits. And remember, there’s no limit on the total amount you collect. Once you retire, those monthly pension checks will keep coming for the rest of your life.

Q. How long do I have to work to get a pension?

To be eligible for a pension, you must have at least 5 years of credited service as a member of TRS. Most public employment in New York City and State can be credited, including work as a school aide, for example.

Q. How old do I have to be to collect a pension?

That depends:

  • Age 55 — if you have 5 years pension credit or more.
  • Under age 62 & fewer than 30 years of service — pension reduced; see UFT pension consultant.
  • Age 55 or older & 30 or more years of service — full pension.
  • Age 62 or older & 5 or more years of service — full pension.
  • Ordinary disability — any age if too sick or disabled to work, but need 10 years of credited service.
  • Accident disability (due to injury in line of duty) — any age & no service requirement.

Q. What if I stop working before retirement age?

If you worked for 10 years, you can get reduced pension checks at 55, or full benefits at 62. If you leave your job sooner, you’ll get back your contribution plus 5% interest.

Q. Can I collect Social Security and a pension?

Absolutely. If you join TRS, you can collect both Social Security and Retirement System benefits when you retire.

Q. Are there other major benefits of joining TRS?

You will be eligible for terminal leave and/or termination pay similar to teachers. So upon leaving service, you can receive payment for unused sick time on a two-for-one basis.

Also, it is urgent that you join TRS/BERS as soon as you start working to protect your benefits under current law. As a member of the retirement system, your benefits cannot be diminished nor impaired if less-favorable pension plans are enacted into law after you become a member of TRS/BERS.

Q. How much will it cost?

Your pension contribution equals 3% of your gross pay; it is federally tax-deferred. The UFT was successful in getting chapter 126 enacted into law which ends the 3% contribution to the pension after 10 years of membership in the retirement system or 10 years of credited service, whichever comes first. The sooner you enroll, the sooner the 3% deduction will end.

Q. What will happen to me if I don’t join TRS?

You may not like to think about what will happen if you become ill or too old to work. But it’s wiser to plan ahead.

If you don’t join TRS, you won’t get pension income, health insurance or other UFT Welfare Fund benefits for yourself or your family after you retire. Your only medical coverage would be Medicare.

However, you can’t lose your job or any job rights if you don’t join TRS. The decision is up to you.

Q. What if I join and then change my mind?

Membership in TRS is permanent. Once you join, you can’t stop contributing while you work for the Department of Education.

Q. How do I join?

You can get an application at your school, at your UFT borough office, or by writing to: Teachers’ Retirement System, 55 Water St., New York, NY 10041.

Q. How can I get more information?

The Pension Handbook for Tier IV members (which incudes all paras) is your best source. Ask your chapter leader or para representative to borrow a copy or buy one of your own for $5 from the UFT. There also are informational meetings in each borough every fall and citywide meetings in the summer.

You may call your borough office with any pension question. And as a para you have the same right as all other UFT members to a confidential pension consultation as you near retirement. To find out more about your individual situation, make an appointment to talk with an expert. Here are the phone numbers:

Bronx — 718-379-6200
Brooklyn — 718-852-4900
Queens — 718-275-4400
Manhattan — 212-598-6800
Staten Island — 718-605-1400

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