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If you contribute to your pension now have some peace of mind about your old age:
That you'll have an income after you retire.
That you and your family will have comprehensive health insurance after you retire.
That you and your family will be covered if you become seriously ill or disabled.
That your family will have support after your death.
Besides, you can't lose a penny! If you resign before you qualify for a pension, you'll get back every cent you contributed, plus interest.
The UFT fought for pension rights for part-time employees for many years. Victory finally came in 1988, when a legal decision ruled that part-time employees were entitled to pension benefits.
Isn't it worth paying a small price now to provide some security for your retirement and your family after you're gone?
Want to know more about the retirement plan? Read on.
Questions and Answers
Q. Can part-time adult ed teachers join a pension system?
Yes. All part-timers (and regular subs are considered part-timers) adult ed teachers who work fewer then 30 hours per week, and any other member who can't join the Teacher' Retirement System (TRS) have the option of joining the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS). If you are not regularly appointed, you are not eligible for membership in the TRS.
Q. When I join BERS, what will I get?
BERS membership gives you benefits both before and after you retire.*
Before you retire, you get:
- Benefits to give you an income if disability forces you to retire early.
- Benefits for your family if you die.
After you retire, you get:
- A pension check every month.
- Medical, dental and optical coverage for you and your eligible dependents.
- Optional benefits to protect your family after your death. And, after retirement, Social Security provides:
- Social Security payments monthly.
- Social Security payments to eligible dependents after you die.
*This is just a brief outline. Some restrictions may apply. See the BERS Summary Plan Description for details. Also, as a UFT member, you have the right to an individual pension consultation at your UFT borough office.
Q. How long do I have to work to get a pension?
The rules about how old you have to be and how long you have to work before you qualify for reduced or full retirement benefits differ depending on when you were hired and joined the retirement system. To better understand your plan, speak to a union pension consultant at your UFT borough office. The union also offers in-depth pension clinics in UFT borough offices at various times throughout the year for those members who are two to three years away from retiring. BERS-eligible member should visit the BERS website or call 929-305-5800.
Q. How old do I have to be to collect a pension?
If you have at least 10 years of pension credit, you can start receiving your pension as early as age 62.
Q. What happens if I become too ill to continue working?
You can get pension benefits at any age if you are too sick or disabled to work. Generally you must have 10 years of credited service. There is no service requirement if your disability is caused by an accident in the line of duty.
Q. What if I stop working before retirement age?
If you have worked for 5 years, you can start getting benefits at age 62. If you leave your job sooner, you'll get back your contributions plus 5 percent interest.
Q. How much will my pension check be?
It depends on how much you've earned and how long you've worked when you retire. A UFT pension consultant can help you estimate your monthly benefits. But there's no limit on the total amount you can collect. Once you retire, those monthly pension checks will keep coming for the rest of your life.
Q. Can I collect Social Security in addition to my pension?
Absolutely. You will collect both Social Security and BERS benefits when you retire.
Q. Are there other major benefits of joining BERS?
If you belong to BERS, you are eligible for terminal leave and/or termination pay. Upon cessation of service, you can take a leave with pay to use up to half of the day in your cumulative absence reserve (CAR) and/or receive payment for unused sick time on the basis of one day's pay for every two days in your CAR. Terminal leave is a good way to check out whether you like retirement, because you can opt to return to service when it ends.
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 me each paycheck to join BERS?
Your pension contribution is 3 percent of your gross pay; it is federally tax-deferred, so you'll reduce your taxable income by the amount of your contribution. 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 BERS?
You may not like to think about what will happen if you have a heart attack or just become too old to work, but it's wise to plan ahead.
If you don't join BERS, you won't get a 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 BERS. The decision is up to you.
Q. What if I join and then change my mind?
Membership in BERS is permanent. Once you join, you can't stop your contributions while you work for the Board of Education.
Q. How do I join?
You can get an application at your school, at your UFT borough office, or by writing to the Board of Education Retirement System, 65 Court St., Brooklyn, NY 11201.
Q. What happens when I get appointed?
Appointees are required to join the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS). You would then apply to transfer all of your credited service from BERS to TRS. Your TRS membership date is retroactive to the date you joined BERS.
Q. How can I get more information?
There are informational meetings in each borough every fall and citywide meetings in the summer. Of course, you may call your borough office with any pension question. BERS members have the same right as anyone covered by the UFT contract to a confidential pension consultation. 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
Manhattan - 212-598-6800
Brooklyn - 718-852-4900
Queens - 718-275-4400
Staten Island - 718-605-1400
NOTE: THE LAW DETERMINES ALL BENEFITS AND TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER THIS BROCHURE.
For more information contact BERS (Board of Education Retirement System).